Rob Varnon writes in the Connecticut Post “Worst economy in a generation or two? So what.”That’s what thousands of people in Connecticut are saying as they continued to open new businesses last month. While the 13,000 businesses that failed between January 2008 and January 2009 is an eye-popping number, more than double that number of people bet on themselves and opened new businesses during the same period, according to the Connecticut secretary of state.
Jon Angel, a commercial Realtor and owner of Fairfield-based Angel Commercial, said there are a lot of positive things happening, and even though some spaces have remained vacant for months and even years in the state, others that were just cleared out already have new tenants lined up.For example, in Westport, The Fresh Market has decided to move into space at 605 Post Road East vacated by Shaw’s supermarket. This will be North Carolina-based The Fresh Market’s first Connecticut store. The company said on its Web site it will open this year or early 2010.
ALDI International of Germany, which makes food and food processing items, is opening a store in Milford on the site of the former Gloria’s, and Electric Wholesalers expanded in Danbury, while La Garconne, an Internet clothing retailer, expanded in Fairfield, Angel said.
Angel tempered his enthusiastic remarks by saying there’s no denying it’s a difficult economy, and he thinks every industry is limping through it.
Still, some are weathering the storm better than others.
Coffee, for example, seems to be holding its own.
While stores have closed on Route 1 in Milford and other retail corridors in the region, the cars and trucks are usually lined up at Dunkin’ Donuts throughout the state. “Coffee is a ritual,” said Jim Cain, of Norwalk-based Cain Management, which operates 30 Dunkin’ Donuts in Fairfield County and Queens, N.Y.
He said his stores aren’t as busy as they were 18 months ago, but his company is still growing. “We’re going to add three stores this year,” he said. Originally, Cain planned to open seven stores in the region. He opened five in 2008, he said.
Cain said his three stores will directly create 50 jobs, and when you add support staff it’s about 75 new jobs. His company has more than 500 employees today.
It’s not an accident Dunkin’ Donuts is seeing success, he said. Years ago, the Dunkin Brands Co., which franchises Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, made a decision to switch from being primarily a doughnut shop to a coffee shop, he said. It was good timing and the right move, Cain said, because Americans were changing their diets.
Cain opened his first Dunkin’ Donuts in Norwalk in 1976. He said people used to come in and buy a dozen or more doughnuts for the weekend and eat them for breakfast.
That doesn’t happen now, he said. What people do is come in for coffee and some of them come in three or four times a day.
One reason he’s been able to continue expanding is because he has kept his debt-to-equity ratio low, he said. Cain doesn’t envy someone who is just starting out or has fewer than five years in business, because they will most likely need loans, which are tough to come by.