By Damiano Beltrami, Aisha Al-Muslim, Anastasia Economides
Sometimes there are advantages to opening a business during an economic downturn. Holiday Haber, owner of P&G Café, a bar that opened two weeks ago at Columbus Ave and 78th Street, says there’s not as much red tape now. At a time when many business are closing or scaling back, she says everybody seems to be pulling for her to succeed and willing to help her get started.
“We just had to buy a chiller for beer lines and the gentleman is driving it himself from Pennsylvania”, Haber said. “And we’re getting it at about a third of its value.”
Bars and restaurant may not be recession-proof, but people don’t stop eating and drinking when times are bad. One big advantage during a downturn is that everything is cheaper. People, raw materials, office space. And suppliers, desperately looking for jobs, turn up on time and offer reasonable returns by providing discounts or special treatments.
“Some landlords are renegotiating their leases,” said Andrew Rigie, Director of Operations of the New York State Restaurant Association. “Restaurant [and bar] owners have more empty spaces to choose from.”
Some economists like Harvard Business School’s Tom Nicholas and Mike Southon, Financial Times columnist and entrepreneur mentor, recently suggested that a recession can be a good time to start a business.
During the last recession (1991-92) roughly 25% of downsized managers over 40 started their own company, according to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, and the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that in the first six months of 2002, 11.4% of jobless managers and executives started their own businesses.
“Because small firms and self employed individuals are more nimble than large corporations and can capitalize on market opportunities during economic downturns, it’s not surprising to see self employment spike during recessions,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business. “It’s a testament to the American entrepreneurial spirit.”
Former managers willing to get start-ups running and small entrepreneurs like Haber share advantages as well as the same big disadvantage in starting a business these days: the lack of credit.
“In these tough economic times investments are a problem,” said Cliff Schorer, a professor at the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School.
Haber used family savings and could count on a number of friends to help move furniture, paint walls and install electrical wiring. But she feels that the money is never enough.
A BAR STOOL FOR A BARGAIN
At a time when bars and restaurants are closing down and sell their furniture to second hand stores, the ones who want to open a business can pick and choose.
The heaven for third and fourth hand stools and tables is the Bowery, an area dotted with dozens of these shops. They are facing hard times, but are a boon for entrepreneurs.