What recession?: Business owners decide it’s time to expand

May 2009 Posted in Business

By Linda WhitmoreWillamette Valley Fruit Company, one of several businesses expanding their operations in the Silverton area.

There’s a recession out there – some say it’s the worst since the Great Depression – but you’d never know it when talking to several business owners who recently either expanded or opened new enterprises in Silverton and the surrounding area.

Each entrepreneur has experience and a positive outlook.

The Cat’s Meow
The economy is not a challenge for Sue Bittler, owner of The Cat’s Meow. “I choose not to take part in it,” she laughed.

In her shop she sells new wedding gowns and does custom sewing and alterations.

Bittler has operated The Cat’s Meow for about six years in various places around town. She moved to the current setting because of its expanded space and better visibility. The location on Lewis Street near the corner of Water Street has been advantageous in the weeks she’s been there.

The Cat’s Meow
201 Lewis St.

“I get to enjoy downtown more. I have a mural (the Gallon House Bridge), the park entrance is across the street and there’s parking for my customers,” Bittler said. “This is perfect.”

There’s space for her to sew and consult with clients; another room has plenty of space for fitting gowns. Indeed, it meets her needs exactly.

Bittler’s business expansion is responding to what she sees as new values; people are making different choices. She finds the disposable mindset is disappearing. People are looking in their closets at good clothes that no longer are the right size and having them altered. They are shopping for quality clothing, and if it doesn’t fit exactly right, having it altered to suit them.

On the wedding side of the business, “people are still getting married” despite the economy. The Cat’s Meow features new gowns that were bridal store samples. Bittler says with low overhead she doesn’t have to aggressively markup the price of her dresses.

In addition to wedding gowns in stock, Bittler makes dresses for proms and other formal occasions and pageant dresses for rodeo queens.

The Cat’s Meow opens its doors all day Wednesdays and Fridays, and half-days Thursday and Saturday for people to stop by, get information and schedule appointments.

Little Sweet Peas
Kinsey Hanley opened Little Sweet Peas, a children’s consignment store, in April. It’s her second shop – the other has clothing for all ages. Hanley said launching a new shop during an economic downturn “is not scary for me. We have the store in Molalla and it’s done so well.”

Little Sweet Peas  
403 N. Water St.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
and Monday Noon – 5 p.m.

She and her mother, Mary Hanley, have operated the resale store for the past four years and it has a strong following with about 700 consigners.

Expanding to Silverton came naturally. Hanley lives in Silverton and for quite a while had eyed the building with the thought of having a shop for babies through young teens. It’s conveniently located across the street from her son’s school and, because it had been a children’s store in the past, it was “painted cute and whimsical,” she said. All she needed was to stock some of the inventory from the other store.

Hanley says there was a need for a children’s consignment store. Little Sweet Peas provides a place for parents to get a little cash by selling their children’s clothes and accessories. Hanley said kids grow so fast, the clothing is next-to-new. In fact, some of her inventory has never been worn and still has sales tags on it.

As a mother of three, Hanley knows the value of a dollar. “I try to set things at realistic prices.

People have to be able to afford them.”

Although Little Sweet Peas specializes in children’s wear, toys and furnishings; people can bring in adult clothing which Hanley will take to the Molalla store.

If after a specified time an article doesn’t sell, it is given to charity. “We donate to schools, pregnancy centers and crisis centers,” as well as to people who have lost their belongings to fire, and to foster parents, Hanley said. “We try to do as much for the town as we can.”

City Thai
Another businesswoman who is opening an additional venue is Krittaya Sittikul, owner of City Thai. She also has a restaurant in Sandy and recently sold one in Portland.

City Thai  
211 Oak St.
11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. daily

Sittikul said she prefers to be in small towns. She had been looking for a possible location in Hood River, McMinnville and Canby before a friend told her about the vacancy in Silverton.

She immediately felt it was the right place. “Everybody’s friendly. Everybody smiles. It feels happy, like a family,” she said.

The focus on family includes her staff, which is comprised of relatives. However, some family members weren’t sure she should be expanding right now, she said. But Sittikul had no doubts. “I believe, I believe, I believe,” she said.

“My business is about food. Everybody likes to eat. If the price is not too high and the food is good, then everybody likes to come here.”

In fact, City Thai is a dream come true for her. Sittikul said she dreamt she lost an earring, then found a more valuable diamond ring and believes it means that while she regretted selling the Portland restaurant, she knows Silverton will be even better.

“If I do everything from my heart, a lot of people will come in.”

Willamette Valley Fruit Company
Located a short distance outside Silverton, Willamette Valley Fruit Company is well known by locals for its fruit pies. Now it has a retail store where fruit products and other delectables can be purchased.

Willamette Valley Fruit Company  
2994 82nd Ave. NE

The company began in 1999 as a berry processor. The Gerald Roth family buys the fruit from about 20 growers and flash-freezes it for sales on the commodity market or for Willamette Valley’s pies and cobblers and in bags for home use.

More customers were driving to the source to purchase pies, so it was decided to develop a retail space where they would sell fresh-baked goods and add ice cream, smoothies and coffee drinks.

Other companies’ products featured are Cary’s, Celeste’s Kitchen, Cranberry Sweets and More, Dulcet Cuisine, Gary West Meats, Hot Lips Soda, Lillie Belle Farms, The James Gang Moonstruck Chocolate Co., Oregon Growers and Shippers, Rose City Pepperheads and Willamette Valley Cheese Co.

But wait, there’s more – Willamette Valley Fruit Company is planning a number of family activities this year. Check the Web site for schedules.

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