Small Businesses Report Glimmer of Optimism for 2010

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Some small businesses say that things are looking up -- finally.

Sales of Luxury Master Baths Like This Leo Dowell Design Are Looking Up

is our people. PCI has a union shop, and supposedly that’s a negative. But we decided not to think that way, because then you’re potentially putting yourself at cross purposes with the people who are best positioned to make your success happen. We’ve built trust -- and a team, and I think most everybody agrees that the combination is working.

Winston-Salem, NC (Vocus) May 4, 2010 -- Optimism pervades the gallery of internationally acclaimed cold glass artist Jon Kuhn. As brilliant rainbow bits of color from his work reflect on the surrounding walls, Kuhn sits at a table in the middle of the large room exuding an air of confidence.

“First of all, I’m an artist,” he says, “and artists are optimistic if nothing else. But 2009 was a difficult year for business,” he admits, “and I’m also a businessman. Kuhn Studio hasn’t been immune from the hammer that hit our economy during the past couple of years, so we’ve had to make our share of adjustments. I’ve stayed upbeat for the most part, however, and kept working on what comes next, because -- again -- that’s what an artist does.”

Kuhn’s optimism is paying off. His glittering $1.2 million Kuhn-Bosendorfer art case grand piano will begin touring this year. He has created a handsome glass wall hanging for the grand salon of a 165-foot yacht, has completed a million-dollar glass table commission and is developing a number of other commission pieces for high visibility settings.

The most visible of the artist’s accomplishments this year, however, promises to a radiant crystal Cross set for presentation to Pope Benedict XVI in September. Kuhn Sacred Glass crosses and other religiously themed sculptures are represented by Salem Stained Glass, one of America’s elite stained glass studios. Salem also collaborates with Kuhn on stained glass windows inset with his work.

Al Priest, Salem’s president, also is high on 2010. “This is already one of the best years we’ve ever had,” he says, “and our partnership with Jon is only part of the reason. We took some lumps in 2009, like most everybody else, but now our pipeline is filling with new projects -- especially stained glass restoration, for which we’re becoming well known.” And Priest says he has other “interesting” new marketing developments on the horizon, as well. Yes,” he concludes, “I think the nail biting is over.”

Ninety miles away, the banking towers of Charlotte pierce the spring blue sky in a town that has fed hungrily on growth for the better part of a decade and now finds itself in the early stages of recovery from the sharp 2008-09 economic downturn. From richly paneled uptown conference rooms to trendy Dilworth coffee shops, optimistic talk is heard more frequently these days around the Queen City. Both the growth, and the momentary pause in that growth, is clearly reflected in the experience -- and attitude -- of well-known Charlotte interior designer Leo Dowell. Over the past 18 months, optimism has been hard to find as the pipeline largely emptied of high dollar projects for interior designers and architects throughout the southeast.

“I had two choices,” the increasingly upbeat Dowell says.” I could feel sorry for myself, which isn’t me and doesn’t do any good anyway. Or I could get to work building on my base. That’s what I chose to do. First, my long-time clients count on me, and that business didn’t go away. And second, I decided simply to become more visible.”

One way Dowell created visibility is by taking his engaging personality and deep experience in French country residential design to Public Television’s “For Your Home.” During the show, Leo walked host Vicki Payne through an 8,000 square foot French Country house filled with antiques Dowell found at the Paris Flea Market, often placed side by side with new pieces made to look old by applying a technique he calls “the dusting of the centuries.” The house is styled after a country chateau on the Rhone and is one of three Dowell-designed homes in a Charlotte “pocket development” called Treillage.

Dowell’s work is immediately and unforgettably beguiling. In Treillage, gently curving cobbled pathways cross “Monet’s Pond” before winding their way to the homes, where design features blend 18th century intimacy with city convenience. Somehow, Dowell is able to blur the lines in his residential designs between old and new, inside and outside in a way that is authentic, elegant and livable all at the same time.

“I’m fully engaged with this new year,” he proclaims. “And it’s going to be a good one if I have to wrestle it to the ground myself!”

Across the country, in a city where The New York Times reports that “things are looking up,” a Portland area flexographic printer that specializes in the custom printing of branded paper bags and twist ties is having a “very good year.”

“We’ve been fine tuning Package Containers for three years,” says company president Bob Degnan, “and now it’s showing up on the bottom line -- despite the recession. We’ve transformed PCI from a company with a vague sense of direction into a dynamo that can do anything and go anywhere. The key,” Degnan readily admits, “is our people. PCI has a union shop, and supposedly that’s a negative. But we decided not to think that way, because then you’re potentially putting yourself at cross purposes with the people who are best positioned to make your success happen. We’ve built trust -- and a team, and I think most everybody agrees that the combination is working.”

Package Container’s transformation shows in two ways: first, there’s a palpable energy on the plant floor, a purposeful hum of activity that wasn’t there previously; and second, sales and profit increased in 2009 -- which is good news, indeed, for the can-do company tucked in back of the Canby, Oregon fairgrounds.

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” Degnan concludes: our people, our customers, our attitude, and God’s providence.” It seems likely that the other businesses cited in this story would agree.

Contact:
http://www.kuhnstudio.com
http://www.salemstainedglass.com
http://www.leodowellinteriors.com
http://www.packagecontainers.com

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Brian Faulkner

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