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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Local entrepreneurs decide to create their own jobs

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Robert Nelson is learning fast as his brother, Buddy, teaches him the tire and lube business. The two turned an abandoned auto shop on North Main Street into Main Street Tire and Lube, confident they can succeed in a new business in a bad economy.
When Rusty's Oil Express on Highway 62/412 closed this summer, Buddy Nelson was out of work.

Nelson, who began working at Rusty's in 2003 while still a student at Salem High School, decided to stay in the tire and lube business, and recruited his brother, Robert, to join him.

In August, they opened Main Street Tire and Lube at 351 North Main Street, near the Preacher Roe Ballpark.

Kerri Lewis needed a job, so she opened a bead shop. Lewis has turned a former pizza restaurant on the Salem Square into a comfortable place for hobbists to buy beads and supplies, and hang out to make some jewelry. There must be a lot of "beaders" in the area. After five months in business, the Ozark Bead Company has a loyal following and is doing well.
"It's been better than I expected," said Robert Nelson. "People are supporting us, so far."

The Nelsons are among a number of people in the Salem area who have decided to open new businesses this year, despite high unemployment and a weak economy, that has made people reluctant to spend.

According to Nelson, his brother believed many of his customers at Rusty's would follow him to his new store, and that they could attract others through strong customer service.

But, first, they had to get the new business ready. Their building on North Main was built as a tire and lube shop, but it had been closed for more than 10 years.

"It was all grown up and you couldn't hardly see the building," said Nelson. "So, we had to get my father-in-law's dozer and clear it out and clean it up."

Surprisingly, as they readied their new business, the Nelson's didn't hear from many skeptics, telling them this is a bad time to open a business and they would never make it.

"Most people were supportive," said Nelson. "They would say most everybody needs a tire and lube shop at one time or another, and there is room is town for another auto business," said Nelson.

Nelson gave up a job with Tri-County Medical supply to join his brother.

"It was scary, giving up a steady income," said Nelson, who added his wife, Tesa, who is a Salem teacher, assured him her check could get them by as the business got established.

Nelson said Main Street Tire is attracting customers by being one of the few auto shops in the area with Saturday hours.

"We are open from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, but have usually been here until two or three, because we're so busy," Nelson said. "We're attracting people who work during the week and need to get things done during the weekend.

Nelson added his company is gaining customers by offering free pick up to service vehicles for people who live or work in the city limits. It also keeps popular tire sizes in stock, instead of having to place an order each time someone wants tires.

"Treat people right and you'll make money," said Nelson. "You won't get rich immediately, but you should do okay."

Unlike the Nelsons, Kerri Lewis didn't find much encouragement, when she decided to open a business last April.

"Most everybody said 'Don't do it, you're crazy.' My mother was really worried that I'd open up and go broke," Lewis laughs.

But, after five months, the Ozark Bead Company is still inviting customers in, on the Salem square.

Lewis lived for years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before moving to Wideman in 2008, to help care for her father, who was ill.

"After my dad died, I decided I couldn't leave my mom on 40 acres with a bunch of dogs." said Lewis.

For a time, she worked in Mountain Home, but that was a long drive, especially in bad weather.

"One day, I came to Salem to look around and saw the building for rent on the square," said Lewis. "For some crazy reason, something told me to stop and inquire about it."

Before she knew it, Lewis was opening a bead shop on the corner of Main and Church Streets.

"I have been a "beader" for a long time and was going to craft shows to sell the jewelry I was making," Nelson recalls. "At Dogwood Days in Horseshoe Bend, I met a lady, Joan Bowman, who was in a bead group in Horseshoe Bend. She invited me to join that group, and I found out there are a lot of artistic people in this area. That gave me the idea of opening a store to sell beads and tools and books to help people make jewelry."

"It's been a godsend to have her here," chimed in customer Tamara Coggins, who was working on a piece of jewelry in the craft room. "Beaders used to have to go to Jonesboro or Little Rock or Springfield to buy beads, or order in bulk on the internet. With this shop here, I can just buy what I want without over-buying when I go out of town."

While she had never owned a business, Lewis has the knack for creating an inviting space for shopping. The two room shop offers a big area for beads and supplies and completed jewelry, ready for purchase. A doorway opening leads to a second room with tables and chairs, which allow people to buy some beads and sit and create. The room is also used for classes to teach beaders new skills.

"The classes have helped bring people in," said Lewis, "and sales have been good, too. You would be surprised how many people enjoy beading around here."

According to Lewis, the Ozark Bead Company is making enough to cover her rent and utilities and other expenses.

"I'm not exactly making money," Lewis laughs, "but the business is carrying itself. It usually takes a small business three or four years to make a real profit."

Lewis said her shop is a good fit with the consignment shop, peddlers mall, flower shop, bakery and other businesses on the square. She adds a photography studio and beauty shop on the way should help bring even more visitors and customers to the square.

While Lewis is an eternal optimist, she admits running a business is not easy, and certainly not for everyone.

"It's hard. It takes a lot of time, and I can't tell you all the times I've been awake in the middle of the night, thinking about and worrying about the business."

Other new businesses launched in Salem this year include the Bargain Corner in the Skyvue Shopping Center, the Crone's Nest antique store and the 62 Grill, both on Highway 62/412.

Brian Sanderson opened the grill earlier this year, in the restaurant space occupied, for years, by the 62 Dairy-Freeze.

Over the months, he discovered it wasn't the best career choice for him.

"Running a restaurant is a very labor intensive business," Sanderson said. "You have to be there all the time to be successful, and I realized you only have so many hours on this earth."

So Sanderson decided to shut down the restaurant, and open Rerun's Resale, an upscale thrift shop, in the building.

Sanderson already had experience buying and selling through E-bay.

"I was reading the other day that thrift stores are one of the few growth industries right now," said Sanderson. "Sales are up 100 percent. People have to be careful with their money, so they are looking for bargains."

Sanderson is still determined to make it by creating his own job.

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