Washington County business leaders: Economy took baby steps in 2012
Peggy Bushey President of Cavetown Planing Mill and CAVCO Homes at her Cavetown office. (By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer / January 5, 2013)
Early this past summer, Behpouri received a telephone call. The caller was the man who bought the former Burhans Station restaurant at a public auction in 2009 at a price the auctioneer said was “a steal.” The successful bidder wanted to sell because the Vito’s restaurant he opened in about 2010 no longer was in business.
Behpouri bought the 301-307 S. Burhans Blvd. property, saying he hoped to open a new restaurant there before year’s end. He said he would operate both it and Railroad Junction before deciding whether to cut back to just one.
“Life is challenging,” Behpouri said in July. “So you got to challenge it.”
But by late December, Behpouri’s new restaurant still hadn’t opened and the building still sports the Vito’s name on its front awning. Behpouri didn’t return any of several messages the newspaper left asking for comment.
And in August, Walla closed Black Eyed Susan South and put the property up for sale.
While the South restaurant still was doing “all right,” Walla said, his main reason for closing it was his own time commitment. It was “too much to run two places. I’d just rather focus my attention on one location.”
He said he chose to keep the northern location because it is a “much larger restaurant and (at the southern site), I had no room to expand.”
The decision forced him to lay off about eight employees, while bringing the others to work at the northern restaurant, he said. In all, it now has about 20 employees, he said.
Signs of slippage
Through August, consumer spending here continued to rise. Every month’s total receipts were higher than in the same month of 2011.
But April and June’s gains were so thin, it’s questionable now whether they weren’t actually the first new signs of slippage. The other months’ gains were better, but not as strong a margin as earlier in the year, according to the newspaper’s review of the sales tax data.
Then, in September, spending fell. The total dropped from $135.0 million in September 2011 to $132.7 million in September 2012.
In October, the result was almost too close to call. Consumers spent $128.1 million here in October 2011, compared to $128.9 million in October 2012.
When the numbers are so close, the significance is harder to interpret, especially because Internet sales are becoming a bigger factor in the marketplace. The impact of Internet sales can’t really be measured by sales tax data because, Maryland officials have said, people seldom pay sales taxes on such purchases.
Nonetheless, the up-and-down rise in consumer spending shows up in the financial books at Weiss Bros., its president said.
The company, which has about 43 employees and is in its 74th year, supplies food-service products to about 500 companies in the region. Among its products are paper and plastic cups and plastic utensils; packaging such as shrink wrap; safety products such as glasses and hairnets; and janitorial supplies such as cleaning towels and tissues.
“We’ve had a 4 1/2 percent increase in sales this year, but it’s been up and down,” Weiss said. “My August was better (than August 2011). My September was significantly less, but I made it up in October, which was better. And my November was about flat.”
Such monthly swings usually are tied to the amounts of hiring and layoffs by his business customers.
“If I’m selling to a factory and they lay off workers, they’re using less toilet paper, less paper towels,” Weiss said.