Some small businesses are thriving - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Some small businesses are thriving

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By Jay Polk - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – When the economy struggles, small businesses are often hit the hardest.

Only about half of small businesses survive for at least five years.

But at least two South Georgia businesses that are bucking the trend.

One of them is well into it's golden years.  Alicia Wills of Leesburg has lived in South Georgia all of her life.  And even as a little girl there was always one store that her family would go to - Bennett's.

"My parents shopped here when I was a child," she said.

The store on Washington Street has had everything that a person could want.  But as she became older Wills found another reason to keep coming here.

"I have horses, so I buy tack for my horses, and horse feed and dog food and dog collars and whatever I need for my animals," she said.

In recent months, however, the store had struggled.  Bennett's was in danger.  But then one of the store's legions of loyal customers stepped up to the plate.

Mark Gavin, one of the new owners said, "it was a great opportunity."

So he, along with partner Chip Block, purchased the store.  In a tip of the cap to tradition, they even decided to keep the Bennett's name.

"Bennett's is a household name. It's a 78 year old company," he said.

Bennett's Feed and Seed - as it's now known - was able to keep something else too: all 18 of it's employees.  They even added four more.  And they're not done expanding.

Gavin said, "we just recently opened up in Cairo.  And we'll be adding Bennett's Feed and Seed West."

To get to the second business, we have to travel up the road a bit into Lee County where we find Carter's Fried Chicken.

While they haven't been in business quite as long as they have down at Bennett's, it's another example of success for a small business in an uncertain economic time.

Like Bennett's Feed and Seed, Carter's is doing a good business.

Owner Samuel Atkinson said, "it's been great.  It's been outstanding."

He thinks he's found the recipe for success.

"We do your homemade stuff here, not anything out of a box or anything like that," he said.

While these two businesses are doing fine, many new businesses don't live to see their first birthday.  Economists say that there are a few keys to the success of a local business - new or old.  One of the most important is to focus on the customer.

Professor Aaron Johnson from Darton College said, "that's one really important aspect is to don't take the customer for granted."

Both businesses seem to be trying to do the best that they can to make the experience as good as possible.

"First thing they speak about is the friendly atmosphere. They also speak about how clean the place is."

And if they keep doing that then both of these businesses will see many more birthdays in the years ahead.

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