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

same reason.

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.

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