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Business climate grows cold in Carnation
CARNATION Another wave of Carnation businesses have decided
to shut their doors, and though several new shops moved into town, it's
not enough to fill the empty storefronts along Tolt Avenue.
Last year Carnation Chamber of Commerce President Steve
Collins watched a number of businesses such as Pete's Club, Charmaine's Town
& Country Florist and White Oak go out of business. More recently,
Total Health and Fitness, Rosebuds and Miller's Dry Goods decided to
close their shops, while Nestlé USA announced that it would reduce
its workforce and herds by June.
"Of the three years that I have been with the chamber, it has not been
this dramatic," Collins said.
One reason that the businesses might be suffering in the city is
because over the years Carnation has become a bedroom community.
"People who leave town in the mornings do their shopping at
lunch and maybe stop by Costco on the way home," he said. "We gotta get a
service industry in Carnation for the people who are here during the day."
That's a topic that Collins will explore when he meets with
government officials in the next several weeks to decide how to help invigorate
the city's economy.
Although most people would agree that it is difficult to run a
business in a small community, not all of the owners are leaving for the
Georgia White-Romaine, owner of Rosebuds, will give up her
antique store and tearoom to pursue her love for the law.
"Before, I worked for several attorneys and I miss it," she said. "And
I figured if I don't go now, I never will."
The paralegal turned entrepreneur said she'll remain active in the
business community since she owns several commercial properties in
Carnation. It wasn't an easy decision, however, and it took a week of
thinking and crying for White-Romaine to finally make the move.
"I appreciate everybody that patronized the store," she said. "I'm
going to miss my family because my customers were my family."
For the owners of Total Health and Fitness and Miller's Dry Goods,
the decision to close their storefronts was made so that they could
concentrate on other ventures. Although business was going well at Dale
Davidson's clothing and jewelry store, he decided to close the shop last Sunday
because the rent was getting too high. Instead he'll invest his money on opening
a second store on Lopez Island.
Paulette Quiroga-Jacklin needed to close her gym because it just
wasn't as profitable as she anticipated.
"It just didn't have the support to continue," she said. "After
three-and-1/2 years it was just paying its bills."
The personal trainer will continue helping others get into shape by
conducting an exercise class at the Sno-Valley Senior Center.
The city's namesake Carnation Farms, now called Nestlé
Regional Training Center, recently announced that it will be going through
business changes, as well. The company eliminated 20 positions (four were
already vacant) mostly landscaping and dairy herd workers in order to
focus on expanding the training center facilities.
"This has been a really difficult couple of weeks," said Nestlé
Spokeswoman Laurie MacDonald. "It's the hardest thing to do, and right now,
the focus is making sure the 16 affected employees are going to have
as smooth a transition as possible."
Over the next two years Nestlé USA will add a dining center
facility and guest quarters to its 700-acre lot in Carnation. The company had to
cancel its annual tours of the "Home of Contented Cows" because of the
Nestlé will also cut 200 milk cows from the farms and eventually
diminish the heifer breeding stock over time, MacDonald said.
Yet as companies are downsizing and closing, there are couple
businesses which recently moved into the city. Vera Oakley, owner of the
Roadhouse Trading Company, opened an antique store about three months
ago next to the former River Run Cafe.
"It's an antique atmosphere in the country and it's very nice and
people come through this way from all sorts of directions," Oakley said.
Larry Newcomb, owner of The Country Upholsterer, wanted to
open a storefront in Carnation so that he could become more involved in
the business and political community.
"I wanted to see how things are run and get involved in the way small
businesses are structured," he said. "There's a lot to be done in this
area because it's dying."
But the country charm can only offer customers so much until
they consult with their pocketbooks first, Paulette Quiroga-Jacklin said.
"It's a Catch-22 because people want to live out in the country and
like the `Ma and Pa' businesses, but they don't want to pay the `Ma and
Pa' prices," she said.