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Gauging the recession’s impact

Gauging the recession’s impact

CBT snapshots find customers want less heroics from pet doctors, old shoes repaired and low-cost weddings that still look good.

Noah’s Ark

Greg and Terry Chapman have owned and operated Noah’s Ark Animal Hospital since 1987, and they’ve weathered several recessions.

“We’ve built a client base that now spans four generations, so we’ve not been greatly impacted by the sinking economy,” Greg Chapman, 55, said.
The clinic at 1003 N. Fairview Road has four full-time veterinarians and a staff of 15, including their 25-year-old daughter, Sarah.

Terry and Greg Chapman help each other draw blood from their dog, Sox.

“I notice clients are more likely to do (only) whatever is absolutely necessary for their pets,” he said. “Instead of getting a 12-months supply of heart worm medicine, they will pick up six months worth.”

Clients seek fewer last-ditch, do-anything-it-takes heroics for injured or aging pets, he said.

“They might have a 14-year-old animal and say, ‘Don’t do anything heroic,'” he said. “They have to balance cost. They ask what they can do at home to add to the quality of the animal’s life, maybe for just a few months.”

A Second Chance dog gets another chance after Terry Chapman performed surgery to fix the dog’s broken leg. Here she wraps and sets the dog’s leg before returning it to the agency.

Seventy to 80 percent of money spent on pets is for geriatric patients, Chapman said.

“The great thing about having a family practice is you see all the generations – moms, dads, grandparents,” Terry Chapman, 52, said. “The interesting thing is you get people’s stories about how much the animal has done for the people. Sometimes we cry, and sometimes they cry. It’s OK.”

She said that in her 29 years in practice, she has removed an arrow from a cat, had one client insist a gypsy perform rites during a dog’s euthanasia and watched her husband euthanize a four-foot alligator raised in a college student’s dorm bathtub.

“And I never thought removing adrenal glands from ferrets is something I would do so many of,” she said. “It’s a common problem”

Dawson Shoe Repair

Bob Wood, owner of Dawson Shoe Repair, is the third generation in his family’s shoe repair business. While much has remained the same over decades, Wood said he’s starting to notice changes that might be related to the recession.

Bob Wood, owner of Dawson Shoe Repair

“We are seeing older shoes from our regular customers and get calls asking about our prices,” he said.

About six months ago, Wood started a policy of charging for repairs in advance to reduce the number of customers who never return to claim their shoes. Customers want specific prices (the average costs are $25 for a heel, $27 for a sole and $5 for a shine). “If they leave them in our hands, at least they are paid for,” he said.

“When oil prices went crazy, that affected the cost of my basic materials, especially rubber and cement used in repairs,” he said. “Delivery charges increased.”

The weather also has an impact. “Wintertime, when it’s cold and wet, is good for the shoe repair business,” he said, and summertime, when people are wearing flip-flops, sandals and athletic shoes, it’s slower. Wood, 62, said business was strong this winter, but he added that he’ll have a better idea this summer whether the recession is having an impact.

His Dad, Estel Wood, 83, started the Dawson shop in 1956 and still works occasionally at the shop, now located at 209 Ninth St.

In Wood’s junior year at Hickman High School, his father had to order textbooks on the trade and have them approved by the school board.

Wood said his teacher and his father then wrote and graded the tests. “So I had two teachers.”

Celebrations LLC

Michelle Dobbins said she’s carved out a niche for tough economic times: a small, professional event planning company called Celebrations LLC, located at 4505 Avondale Place.

She offers professional wedding and event planning for rates that larger competitors may consider cut-rate prices.

Michelle Dobbins

“The economy is better for me, but the problem is that people still feel that an event planner is a luxury,” Dobbins said. “I target the smaller markets, not people with weddings in the $50,000 range. The majority of weddings in Columbia are in the $17,000 to $35,000 range.

“The economy has not affected the number of weddings but rather how extravagant the weddings are,” she said. “To keep costs down, I like to be an on-site coordinator.”

Tough economic times force her to do research on inexpensive ways to operate that do not take away from the overall excitement, she said.
“You still can be creative with your wedding or other event without paying an arm and a leg,” she said. “Most people know what they want, but when I break it down, they realize, ‘wow,’ that’s a lot.”

You will never see a decline in weddings but instead a decline in the cost of weddings, she said. According to Dobbins, people are also taking more time to plan weddings. She advises couples to begin at least a year ahead.

Her tips: June weddings cost more due to venue availability and rates. Fall weddings are becoming much more popular. Flowers can be a major cost, especially real ones. Overall, people remember three things about a wedding: the food, the bride and the entertainment.

Kent’s Floral Gallery

Kent Anderson has been a florist 32 years, 11 of which have been at his shop – Kent’s Floral Gallery, 919 E. Broadway.

“Our (products) are a luxury, so there will always be ups and downs,” he said. “But I am optimistic. Florists have survived thousands of years.”

People are cutting back on expenses, he said, and patients at local hospitals are not receiving as many bouquets since the recession hit.
Anderson has expanded his inventory to include gourmet foods such as teas, fruit preserve toppings and pecan popcorn. He plans to hold customer-appreciation nights and offer recipes and food samples.

Large art pieces and ornate home furnishings for sale also line the walls. “Too many times, people think of a florist shop as only that – a florist shop with just plants,” he said.

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