The economy's newest victims

Nation's moribund status keeps hitting businesses large and small

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Restaurants may be businesses, but they are so much more than that.

It’s doubtful, for instance, that you’ll ever say to a loved one, “Hey, remember that box of envelopes we bought in 1990 at the office supply store? Good times!”

Because eating is such a social, communal act, and because both gatherings and the food we share can be so memorable, restaurants get into our hearts more than most ongoing concerns. A really good meal with friends or family becomes a special occasion.

So when that restaurant where you shared those memories closes, you can feel a personal loss. The scrapbook in your head is forced to turn a page.

Such is the case with this week’s closing of Al’s Family Restaurant in North Augusta, which closes a book on a beloved down-home-food institution that has created memories at 661 Atomic Road since 1978.

“For many years,” one commenter at AugustaChronicle.com wrote, “Al’s was where my mom wanted to go, anytime she had an opportunity. Last year we even had her 92nd birthday party there. Al’s made her favorite foods and Elvis even showed up to entertain. She was surprised and happy. The last thing she said as we were leaving was, ‘If I’m still around next year I want to do the same thing!’ I guess we will have to make another plan for this year ...”

Owner Butch Bone blamed the economy – which makes you wonder: If a 35-year fixture can fall prey to the moribund economy, what else is possible?

How about this: February is Wal-Mart’s worst start to a sales month in seven years “as payroll-tax increases hit shoppers already battling a slow economy.” That’s according to Bloomberg News, which obtained internal emails among Wal-Mart executives sweating month-to-date sales. In the emails, the phrase “total disaster” was used.

If a behemoth like Wal-Mart is tugging nervously at its metaphorical shirt collar, you know things are bad.

Let’s hope things get better. But there’s a chance they could get worse. Gasoline prices are spiking faster and earlier than usual this year, reducing discretionary income for an American public already trying to cut back. Health-care mandates are spooking many businesses, and rightly so. And the president is even stumping for higher business costs in the form of a raise in the minimum wage.

A survey of small businesses last month by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 82 percent feel the country is on the wrong track. And that was before the precipitous rise in fuel prices or the talk of a minimum-wage increase. In every recent poll listed at RealClearPolitics.com recently, the percentage of Americans who think we’re on the right track is in the 30s.

As for the wage increase, “There’s no doubt in my mind that it would hurt the unemployment rate,” Chris Cunningham, president of the Augusta-area Wife Saver Inc. chain of independently owned and operated fast-food restaurant franchises told The Chronicle last week.

None of this even takes into account the larger picture, which is ominous in and of itself. Spending in Washington threatens to open the door to inflation, higher interest rates and even dangers to the dollar. The Federal Reserve’s money printing is currently keeping things going, creating what may be a misguided complacency or, to borrow a term, irrational exuberance on Wall Street.

Europe’s sovereign debt problems are hardly over, either – and U.S. leaders remarkably have put us on a similar path.

Even liberal-leaning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman worries that the 2008 economic collapse’s ripples “are being reinforced today by uncertainty and worry that we do not have our political house in order and, therefore, our tax, regulatory, pension and entitlement frameworks are all in play. ... It’s a tragedy. You can feel the economy wants to launch, but Washington is sitting on the national mood button.”

Friedman primarily blames conservatives, though he doesn’t explain how. But he allows that, “After the whipping the GOP took in the election, I believe there is now a group of Republican politicians and CEOs who would meet Obama in the middle, if the president showed he was ready to take on some of his base as well.”

We agree with Mr. Friedman that the president needs to reach out. National politics have rarely affected Americans so fundamentally and so locally.

Just ask customers of Al’s.

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SFCRET85
4998
Points
SFCRET85 02/23/13 - 01:55 am
1
0
Balderdash. The demise of
Unpublished

Balderdash. The demise of Al's had nothing to do with the sluggish economy. Even had the food and service been kept up to it's former standards, American newer and heathier eating habits along with competition that served what the public wants brought this on.

That and the fact that those who ate there regularly have gone to an early grave.

Note: Gallon cans of green beans boiled in leftover bacon grease will give you heart attacks and strokes. Some folks are smart enough to know that.

SFCRET85
4998
Points
SFCRET85 02/23/13 - 02:12 am
1
0
Now about Wal-Mart. A company
Unpublished

Now about Wal-Mart. A company that "counsels" it's workers on how to apply for and get food stamps deserves to go out of business. That's a drain on the American taxpayer. Especially when most of the goods sold there come from foriegn suppliers.

Buy American and Wal-Mart can either suck it up and return to Mr. Sam's patriotic America building or go under. After all, that's what will bring back the American way.

SFCRET85
4998
Points
SFCRET85 02/23/13 - 02:09 am
1
0
Lastly, are the Republicans
Unpublished

Lastly, are the Republicans really dumb enough to play "Sequester Chicken" with our President? Really? The guy who went against Republican "advice" unlike his Republican predecessor, and had Bin Laden shot in the eye and you want to test his nerve? Again really?

The guy who has the guts to get American men and women out of harms way, chase down and kill evil men and daring limp wristed Republicans to challenge him on it and you think he won't stand up to our own back yard bullies? Really?

Drone on!

rebellious
21881
Points
rebellious 02/23/13 - 05:05 am
6
2
"Friedman primarily blames

"Friedman primarily blames conservatives, though he doesn’t explain how. But he allows that, “After the whipping the GOP took in the election, I believe there is now a group of Republican politicians and CEOs who would meet Obama in the middle, if the president showed he was ready to take on some of his base as well.”

We agree with Mr. Friedman that the president needs to reach out. National politics have rarely affected Americans so fundamentally and so locally.

I agree. But stand by and wait on more of these decisions as the National Healthcare program and economic pressures continue.

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 02/23/13 - 05:23 am
7
1
What Would the 92 Year Old Say?

I learned from my mother to pay cash for what I wanted. We never even bought a car on credit. That philosophy has worked for me with my personal finances throughout life no matter the financial stage I was on.

The current federal philosophy is not something frugal folks understand because it’s to keep spending whether we have the money or not. The most conservative economists even allow for cost of living raises in their plans to improve the debt picture. That method depends on a growing economy which is a gamble. The liberal economists will say tax more and spend more to get the economy on track. We have lost our common sense and have leaders telling the people to spend everything and find the government programs to take care of themselves. Those who don’t fall in line will be punished with confiscatory policies until they are like the others.

Make no mistake there is no middle ground, no compromise and no temporary measure with promises to cut spending later that will stop the government from borrowing 46 cents on every dollar it spends. The 92 year old lady who had her birthday at Al’s could tell us lots as she counts out her change carefully. She may not use the word sequestration, but I’m sure she would tell you to cut down on your spending if you can’t pay your bills.

carcraft
28487
Points
carcraft 02/23/13 - 05:30 am
6
2
Look at what Obama says

Look at what Obama says sequestration is going to do to America. Sequestration only takes US government spending back to 2011 levels! I haven't had a raise since 2011, If I can live at 2011 levels the government should be able to!

seenitB4
97601
Points
seenitB4 02/23/13 - 07:58 am
4
2
Meet in the middle

THat is not an ugly word....yaknow.. do it.

curly123053
5378
Points
curly123053 02/23/13 - 08:06 am
5
4
America Is Corrupt From The Top

All these socialistic federal mandates are going to put a hurting on a lot of businesses, especially the small local businsses like Al's Family Restaurant. By the end of Obama's 2nd term there will be a lot of "former" family operated bussinesses. This is what 51% of voters wanted evidently, a government that is working as hard as it can to bring America to it's knees.
This is the "entitlement generation" of Americans who think the government is going to take care of them. Many of these entitlement generation voters will be the ones hurting when it's all over. The American government is as corrupt as groups like the Mafia, and Union thugs. The American Government from the top down is very Un-American!!

avidreader
3560
Points
avidreader 02/23/13 - 08:15 am
6
1
Family Debt!

Individual debt is totally out of control with many people in our nation. It is so much easier to survive these trying times when you do not owe anyone money. My wife and I learned this lesson the hard way, and we have not had a car payment since 1994. And the list goes on; however, we live well and sleep well. I wish the federal government understood this.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 02/23/13 - 08:19 am
8
6
“And that was before the
Unpublished

“And that was before the precipitous rise in fuel prices”
When gas prices went up under Bush the main stream media was screaming that it was Bush's fault and he was just rewarding his oil friends. Now the price of gas has double under the community organizer and you hear hardly a word.

DanK
784
Points
DanK 02/23/13 - 08:47 am
7
6
Polls

First, If you look at the history of that very same poll, asking the very same questions, which is done monthly by the way, you'll see that the country has been going in the wrong direction since Bush took office. The country has not been going in the right direction, according to that poll, since the Clinton administration was in office.

And second, restaurants close all the time, and new ones open. It's easy to blame the economy, but just look at the demographics. If a restaurant has been around for a long time, it's customers die or move away or get tired of the same menu forever. And new customers just may prefer a different kind of atmosphere and menu. But the fact is, year to year, the number of restaurants that fail is very high. This is a very tough business to succeed at. And the customers are fickle.

Third, as for Wal-Mart, their profits had been taking a hit for more than a year as customers discovered that Target and some other retailers were actually offering better prices and nicer stores than Wal-Mart. So it's not just the payroll tax issue. Perhaps you should look at the other big chains that have closed their doors. Borders, Circuit City, etc.

It's not the economy, it's not Obama, it's the competitive marketplace. You win or lose based on sales, which is customers. It has ALWAYS been that way. Kmart and Sears and JC Penny are going down the tubes because they cannot compete in the marketplace. They have been on a downward spiral for a decade.

It's convenient to blame everything on Obama, when in fact, we all know that in our free market economy, businesses rise and fall based on their ability to attract customers. It's the same playing field for every business. The same laws apply to them all. If one business fails when others are succeeding, it is just the way the market works.

As champions of capitalism, ACES should know that.

Young Fred
21135
Points
Young Fred 02/23/13 - 08:43 am
7
4
Meet in the middle

"THat is not an ugly word....yaknow.. do it."

Meet in the middle of what?

If the road is full of crap, standing in the middle means I'm still standing in crap.

dichotomy
37496
Points
dichotomy 02/23/13 - 09:06 am
4
2
The state of our debt should

The state of our debt should be all of the proof we need that collectively our policitical body is OUT OF IT'S MIND and that what is needed is a BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT. That will be the ONLY way the Amercican people can ever get some amount of control over government spending and financial solvency. We cannot continue to give people who have NO common sense and NO motivation and NO restrictions the authority to borrow more and more money to buy votes and pad their pork pen. THEY have run up the debt into the realm where they truly believe that they are operating with funny money....monopoly money....and that there are no consequences to keep doing what they are doing. THEY ARE WRONG and we...or more precisely....our children will suffer tremendously for what they are doing.

A balanced budget amendment would cure a miriad of evils, the most important of which is that it would take away 90% of the reasons for partisan bickering in Washington. With a balanced budget amendment you will NEVER see 500 politicians going home to tell their constituents that they are going to raise their taxes to build some bridges to nowhere or to give more people money for not working. You would never hear 500 politicians telling their constituents that they are going to raise their taxes to give to Solyndra or Fiskers. You would never hear 500 politicians tell their constituents that they are raising their taxes in order to cut the oil companies a tax break. It would immediately restore some sanity in Washington. A balanced budget amendment is OUR ONLY SALVATION from CRAZY spending programs, radical ideologies of whatever party is in control, and pork belly vote trading between "bringing home the bacon" politicians.

JRC2024
10491
Points
JRC2024 02/23/13 - 11:18 am
2
1
Avid reader that is some very

Avid reader that is some very good advice so all you younger folks on this site take note. It will not hurt you to live that way. You may not have everything but you will not have the worry either and that is worth more than things. That has been my belief since I started working 42 years ago and my wife and I still live well and peaceful.

Darby
29310
Points
Darby 02/23/13 - 11:29 am
6
3
Even if Obama wanted to....

he is little more than a tool of Reid and Pelosi. Those two have never had it so good. They get to indulge all their little socialist fantasies while Obama takes the lead (blame or credit, your choice) on it.

He has little to no control over those two and they are in an orgasmic liberal nirvana now. Just let him try to work with Republicans. Not that he would be inclined to....

Chigger Hill Man
159
Points
Chigger Hill Man 02/23/13 - 12:27 pm
5
2
For those of you who say

"I wish the government would realize what they are doing to the country", I say that the government knows exactly what it's doing. Everyone knows how Marine boot camp works. They take a normal young person and quickly bust him down to zero thoughts, except the principals taught by the Marines. Total dependence on the Corps. What's the difference in that and what the government is doing to us, their recruits? They are busting us down to zero, and we're almost there. by the time Hillery goes in office in 2016 we will be totally dependent on the government. She will just do the mop up operations and oversee the government state. Sometime I realize that it isn't so bad being seventy years old, because I don't think I want to be in the third world USA thirty years from now.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 02/23/13 - 01:48 pm
3
2
On matters of money

The good thing is one can do a lot about controlling debt; but there is very little that we can do about controlling the value of our dollars. Should we invest in gold? Do you trust our government not to seize it? You tell me.

Little Lamb
49092
Points
Little Lamb 02/23/13 - 03:10 pm
4
1
Gold

Good questions, Willow, with no easy answers. I do own some physical gold as a hedge investment. Though it is scary to buy commodities at historically high prices (on paper), many experts are predicting rising prices ahead. I'm seriously considering making another investment purchase in physical gold (coins) soon.

As far as the government’s attempting to seize gold held by private citizens, I don't think Americans will be suckered in 2013 through 2016 as they were in the days of Roosevelt. There will be resistance. Besides, at this point it will be nigh on to impossible to know who has gold coins and who doesn't.

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 02/23/13 - 04:55 pm
2
2
LOLLLLLLL....I know

LOLLLLLLL....I know WritingsontheWall's comment will be pulled because of the profanity, but it's one of those moments like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. He's had a lifetime of people throwing spitballs at him and he's had it. The regular posters weren't spared either. We were the ignorant ones without education. I mean it's like the guy in the bar who goes off on you, but you can't help but buy him a beer afterwards. I found that funny in a funny sort of way even if I am one of the ignorant ones.

Little Lamb
49092
Points
Little Lamb 02/23/13 - 05:15 pm
2
1
Ramous

Yeah RM, I guess I'm one, too. Not only did I not pay attention in school, I actually own some gold coins. That's a double shot of ignorant.

harley_52
25896
Points
harley_52 02/23/13 - 05:34 pm
2
1
Mark Me Down...

...as being a triple shot of ignorance, at least.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 02/23/13 - 05:46 pm
0
0
lefties,
Unpublished

controlling the white house and senate, blame conservatives for the mess they've created. Learn to speak Chinese or Arabic very quickly.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 02/23/13 - 05:50 pm
2
2
"Writings"....

...screen name says it all.....The writing IS on the wall, and it ain't pretty.
I beg to differ with his assessment of "Our Dear Ruler" though...It's PrezBO's fundamental lack of understanding of capitalism and American exceptionalism combined with his left leaning cronies AND the fawning slobbering media that have put this country on an even faster road to decline than it was previous to his "regime". Also, it is the mentality of the "dumb masses" that voted to re-instate this political hack to the White House that is the problem...not those of us who feel it is important to keep our personal debt low while hedging our bets on the future.....
My guess is, those that ridicule us for buying gold and bullets will be the first ones pounding on our door when their "sort of a God" Obama finally finishes the job the left has been trying to accomplish for years....
When that day comes....a restaurant closing will pale in comparison to what will surely be the end of our Great Experiment....
Hyperbole?...maybe. But are YOU willing to take the chance that Washington will look out for you?....me?.....Nope.

faithson
5527
Points
faithson 02/23/13 - 06:31 pm
3
0
Dukes

now now, to put the blame on our economy for Al's demise is specious. Remember well Dukes on Walton Way, Oh the lunches. Plenty of customers out there, it comes down to the 'market' and the 'market' did not support Al's in the same way it did not support Duke's. There is no 'hangin on' to the old ways where the 'market' is concerned.

faithson
5527
Points
faithson 02/23/13 - 06:39 pm
4
0
whoa.. just read writing onthe wall,

hope you righties don't think we lefties are all the same here. ole wotw seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder. me thinks the spitballs got to him.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 02/23/13 - 07:27 pm
3
1
That was certainly a record;

That was certainly a record; gone on the first comment.

Little Lamb
49092
Points
Little Lamb 02/23/13 - 07:29 pm
3
1
Gone

:-)

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 02/23/13 - 07:30 pm
3
2
I have to agree with Young

I have to agree with Young Fred regarding the middle.

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