Fun businesses getting along
There’s no denying that an economy in recession is tough on business, but people still need some forms of diversion.
Grand Valley businesses that provide just that still are seeing customers come through the door, even after the long, cold winter.
One regular customer at Hobby Hut explained it to store owner Chris Neilsen this way:
“This is my Cheers,” referring to the television series about a bar “where everybody knows your name.”
Hobby Hut, the customer told Neilsen, “is where I come and do my thing and enjoy the people and my hobbies.”
Hobby Hut, 811 N. 12th St., founded by Neilsen’s parents 40 years ago February, has seen plenty of ups and downs over that time, but last year seemed to defy the economic odds.
Final numbers have yet to be tallied, “but all indications are we didn’t fall off that far, and this year looks pretty darned solid,” Neilsen said.
In many respects, the same is true for other Grand Valley businesses competing for customers’ discretionary dollars.
“I think people look for a little escapism when they come here,” said Brian James, marketing director for Bananas Fun Park, 2469 Riverside Parkway.
To be sure, James said, the winter was hard on Bananas, but the indoor pavilion that opened in November was “the saving grace for us.”
The need for escape is sharpened by any break in the weather, and that was true for Bananas, James said.
“We got pretty busy the last couple weekends, and it didn’t even have to be that nice before they were coming in here pretty well,” he said. “The upside of winter is that people are dying to get outside.”
The success over the winter for Bank 8 Billiards, 2460 F Road, Suite 3, shows that people still want an outlet, especially for inexpensive entertainment.
At $6.25 per hour for a table, that comes out to a buck and change for four people, Bank 8 Billiards owner John Hynes said.
“We’re holding steady and seeing a small increase in numbers,” Hynes said. “Life could definitely be worse.”
The owners of Top 5 Comics at First Street and Orchard Avenue, are still in business after a year.
As with other businesses offering discretionary services, Top 5 Comics felt the economic contraction, but it remains in business, offering its clientele “our own community,” said Steve Moore, one of the owners along with his brother, Rob, and Phil Ferguson. “We look out for each other.”
Even if people can buy the comics online, they want the opportunity to discuss and debate with other fans, “just like any other hobby.”
It helps, as well, that there’s a lot of interest in recent comic book works such as “Green Lantern: Blackest Night.”
“Blackest Night” is “pretty much where it’s at,” opening comic book fans’ wallets, Moore said, suggesting it might be something of a metaphor for better times ahead.
“Blackest night leads to brightest day,” Moore said. “Well, maybe.”