Small businesses share challenges of 2021

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

Consumer spending is up, the real estate market is booming and life is slowly inching back to normal. At the same time, many local businesses are perpetually short-handed and others have closed for good. So, what’s it really like to run a small business right now? The Farragut Insider asked a few owners/managers for an update.

Barry Lane, general manager of Tire Discounters on Campbell Station Road, says business has only increased since the store opened in May of 2019, even during 2020. While he has no issues with product supply, he’s struggled to find entry level help in spite of a significant uptick in the hourly wage he offers.

The fact that there’s a shortage of new cars available has helped his business. Most of the vehicles he’s seeing now are 2-10 years old, and they need more maintenance, he says.

“There’s not a (automotive repair) shop in town that’s not having an increase in business.”

The story is different for Linda’s Hallmark Shop in Village Green Shopping Center. The shop was closed for two months in 2020, but regular customers and long-time staff members kept the privately-owned store afloat.

In 2021, the biggest challenge has been shipping issues, says manager Rene Mackley. Shipping containers have tripled in price, and the additional expense has been passed on to retailers. Since it takes longer to receive orders, the store is stocked with extra merchandise that she hopes will get it through the busy Christmas season. Customers need to know that shipping issues will affect holiday shopping, she says.

“When you see it, buy it. Don’t think you can come back later and get it.”

Manufacturing issues have been a problem for Fruition Café owner Grace Gault. She was happy to finally receive an order of jumbo-sized cups after waiting several weeks. She’s also experienced delays with fruit, meat and cheese orders. But she’s happy that schools are open. Because of her West End location, she relies heavily on school traffic. She kept her store open in 2020, but had to let her staff go and run the café herself.

“We’re doing better than last year,” she says.

Phil Dangel of the Shrimp Dock says his three stores are holding steady, although he’s closed on Mondays to provide relief to his burnt-out staff. Supply chain issues have resulted in significantly higher prices on crab, but there’s only been a modest increase in the cost of fish and shrimp, he says. Higher prices behind the scenes have affected his margins, though.

“The latex gloves we wear to work with the fish used to be 100 for $28. Now it’s $103. Every restaurant has been affected.”

International Flair Jewelers is next door to the Shrimp Dock in Essex Plaza. Cindy Whitworth is now the only employee of owner Uri Freijanes, who moved to the location from Turkey Creek three years ago. While the store is facing challenges with getting jewelry parts for repairs, Cindy says they are blessed to still be open. Uri was especially sad that Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant closed since they opened their Turkey Creek locations at the same time.

The jewelry store has been sustained by a solid customer base, Cindy says, but she doesn’t think customers realize how difficult it’s been to stay in business over the past year and a half.

“If you go into a business, that person has fought hard to have that business. It takes a community to support local businesses so we can all thrive.”

Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.

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