Recession Pinches Small Businesses in Wheaton

Small businesses are getting creative to survive

By John Schriffen
|  Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010  |  Updated 9:01 PM EDT
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Recession Pinches Wheaton Restaurants

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Recession Pinches Wheaton Restaurants

In these tough economic times, the essence of a Maryland community is in danger of going away.
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The tough economy is pushing Wheaton small businesses to the brink, but they're fighting back.

For more than 40 years music lovers, from near and far have been rocking out at Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center. The customers are loyal and Vice President Robert Levin said business is doing well, but in this economic climate, he knows nothing can be taken for granted.

As the owner of Dejabel Cafe Eddie Velasquez’s dream was to bring something new to the area. He whips up vanilla soy lattes or any type of tasty treat for the Wheaton, Md., community. In a little more than a year, he’s already created quite a following.

“There’s nothing like this place,” said customer Chris Snyder. “It’s a really nice environment where you get to know people.”
 
“When you have a 2-year-old you have to think about a place that they can run around and scream and yell,” said customer Bill Jelen. “So, yeah, it feels pretty family friendly.”
 
But this coffee hot spot might soon be gone if Velasquez doesn’t come up with $24,000. He said because of the tough economy, business has slowed down and he’s fallen behind on the rent. In a last-ditch effort, he’s getting creative to attract more customers.
 
“We do wine tastings, we do karaoke, we do open mics -- things that you would never find in Wheaton,” said Velasquez. “So I think that once people find that there's something you can do here, you don’t have to go to D.C. anymore. You don't have to go to downtown Silver Spring. You can do it here in Wheaton.”
 
But another problem is the lack of foot traffic in Dejabel's neighborhood, caused by the empty storefronts.
 
To solve that problem, the Wheaton Business Alliance -- made up of small business owners -- is trying to come up with a way to entice more businesses to set up shop.
 
“The goal is to keep Wheaton with its special unique flavor,” said Natalie Cantor. “But at the same time to bring in new development.”

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