Coming together Families provide a boost for some local businesses

Despite the uncertain economy, shoppers don't pinch pennies when they find a good deal.
Crippled retail sales and a sluggish economy marked the United States in the wave of uncertainty that followed terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, but not every business is feeling the pinch.
Some establishments are experiencing a surge in sales and number of visitors.
JMJ Spiritual Connection, Cornersburg, has seen an influx of new customers since Sept. 11.
"Right after the twin towers were blown up, more people came in," said Maggie Pardee, a sales associate at the Christian bookstore. Drivers who pass the store every day stopped just because they had never been in the store and regulars stopped because many of them "are feeling the need to pray more," she said.
"We have a prayer request book in front of the store and more people are writing in it. Some people just come in to listen to the music -- we play Christian music all day."
Although sales are down overall, Pardee said demand for some items -- rosaries, crucifixes, Bibles, prayer cards, crosses and God Bless America bracelets -- is up significantly.
Togetherness: Many families, keenly aware of how quickly loved ones could be lost, are choosing to spend more time together, fueling demand for family entertainment.
At Hollywood Video, Austintown, "entire families are coming in together," said assistant manager Angie Paynter. Parents with toddlers to teen-agers come in to choose videos that they will watch together. Comedies and Disney movies have been most popular, she added.
Usually, the video rental business picks up in November, "around Thanksgiving when families are together anyway," Paynter said.
"This year it has gotten busy earlier. We started getting busy around the end of September, which is really unusual."
Since mid-September, The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown has seen more families, too. "I'm seeing families on the weekends that I haven't seen in years," said Lou Zona, executive director.
Families are choosing to visit local attractions rather than traveling, Zona noted. "That's good to see. Whole families are coming in together." Children who've visited the Butler during school field trips excitedly escort their parents through the galleries, pointing out what they've seen, he said.
Varied exhibits, everything from portraits to exhibits using laser technology, appeal to a wide range of visitors, Zona continued.
"If there's good that comes from bad things, we're looking at this beautiful hometown of ours and realizing that it's a pretty good place to live. It's like discovering a jewel in our own drawers."
Admission to the Butler is free.
Hummel shop: Business from mid-August through late October at the Hummel Gift Shop in New Springfield was record-setting, despite the attacks.
"We were so busy they could have dropped a bomb in New Springfield and we wouldn't have known," said David May, store owner.
During that 12-week stretch, sales quadrupled. The surge started with the introduction of a three-month promotion designed to clear out overstocked merchandise.
"This was the first time in 70 years that our family has had an inventory reduction sale and it was wild," May said, laughing.
Sales remained strong after the national tragedies. After the attacks, the sale was modified to encourage patriotic support of those affected.
Bargain-priced collectibles and a contest that recognized repeat customers drew shoppers by the busloads. Some 2,000 names of new customers were added to the mailing list during the three-month period, he said.
Shoppers were awarded additional points in the contest for donating food and clothing for victims, May said. Two pallets were filled with donations in just a few days.
Because New York and Washington were overwhelmed with donations, those collected at the gift shop were given to a local charity for needy New Springfield area residents.
"They really needed it because their donations came to a screeching halt with everybody donating for victims of the terrorist attacks," May continued.
Shoppers also donated more than $900 to help foot the bill for a pipe organ at New Springfield's Church of God.
Visiting the Hummel Gift Shop offered shoppers an escape from the bombardment of devastating news reports, May added. "They had fun saving, collecting and gift-giving and we had fun going to the bank."

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