New business owners hopeful of economic recovery

July 07, 2012|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU |
  • Washington County businesses - before, during and after recession
By Chad Trovinger/Graphic Designer

It’s dinnertime, but the big white-bricked restaurant building with green canopies outside and polished wood furnishings inside is silent, dark and empty.

The Hagerstown restaurant, long open as Burhans Station under one ownership and more recently as Vito’s under another, has been closed for months — seemingly another sign of dreams lost as the nation has struggled through economic recession.

But at this former restaurant and at several other places in Washington County and beyond, there is rebirth and new hope among people who are seeing the has-been locations as fresh opportunities for business.

“I’m very hopeful right now” about the economy, said longtime local restaurateur Mortaza “Mort” Behpouri, who paid $200,000 last month for the 301-307 S. Burhans Blvd. restaurant building.

“Some people say, ‘You crazy?’” Behpouri said. “‘Well,’ I say, ‘I am challenging myself.’ If I fail it, I’m not going to be sorry. At least, I try.”

Others are trying, too. Among those who have been buying a business, opening new stores or restaurants, or adding second locations since the nation’s recession began in late 2007 are:

  • John Walla, who stepped up his catering business to become Black Eyed Susan Restaurant & Catering south of Hagerstown in early 2008 and who opened a second Black Eyed Susan north of the city this year.
  • Ramkrishna “Ram” Patel, who opened Rosewood Liquor on the city’s eastern edge in 2011 and Café Liquors off Wesel Boulevard this year.
  • Jamie and Sherrie Blackwood, who bought the Fox’s Pizza Den franchise on the city’s northern fringes early this year.
  • Bob and Lisa Johnson, who opened a Fox’s Pizza Den in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., in 2010. They have owned another in Hancock since about 2000.

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