New Businesses Opening Despite Bad Economy

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The way Andrea Lepore sees it – she was destined to open her own Italian restaurant. 

“I’m Italian and my grandparents were in the wholesale beverage business. So it’s kind of in my blood.” 

Lepore used to work in the marketing department for the Sacramento Kings. Last month she opened her first restaurant. It’s called Hot Italian at the corner of 16th and Q in midtown Sacramento. Her business partner and chef is Fabrizio Cercatore. 

“We serve pizza and panini and salad. We have also Italian gelato and coffee and cappuccino.”  

The restaurant also includes a small clothing boutique with Italian motorcycle jackets. 

This 6,000 square-foot building used to be a fireplace and barbecue store. Lepore says one of the benefits of starting a business in a down economy is the abundance of vacant retail spots like this one. 

“You have a lot better choice of prime locations that are available.” 

Of course one of the disadvantages is coming up with the cash to pay for that prime location. Lepore says the costs were a lot higher than she originally anticipated. 

“So it was renegotiating the lease, getting more investors and going through that whole process which was a major ordeal in a down economy.” 

And that’s pretty common, according to Molly Brogan. She’s with an advocacy group called the National Small Business Association. Their most recent survey of small-business owners found that financing continues to be a problem.    

“Nearly half use credit cards and unfortunately almost 70% said that their credit cards terms are worsening.” 

It’s no surprise then that fewer businesses are even opening. Sacramento County officials say the number of general license applications is on the decline. More than 5,100 businesses opened in 2007. And with four months left in this fiscal year, only 3,200 have opened so far. 

Still, Molly Brogan with the National Small Business Association says the majority of small-business owners are confident about the future of their business. 

“That confidence level is certainly down from where it previously was. But it is one moderate silver lining that entrepreneurs still do feel that they’re going to be able to weather the storm and come out of this recession on top.” 

Andrea Lepore of Hot Italian says she’s convinced she’ll be able to whether the storm as well. 

“People still need to eat. And with pizza, 98% of the population eats pizza so it’s something that people will eat whether they’ve got a lot of money or don’t.” 

Lepore says business has been brisk since she opened last month, and she’s confident it’ll get even better as downtown workers venture out for lunch when the weather warms up.