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For KSMU’s Sense of Community Series, I’m Mike Smith. Join with me now as we listen to the owners of Mama Jeans Natural Foods Market share some of their experiences of dealing with the economic downturn, in their own words.
I’m Diana Hicks from Mama Jeans Natural Food Market. And I’m Susie Farbin, the other co-owner of Mama Jeans Natural Foods Market. We have two locations in Springfield. Diana: “We added our second location in August 2008. We have around 62 employees. Of that number, 60% are full time employees. Susie: “As far as the economy, we’ve told our employees that we will not reduce the benefits. We do offer health insurance and a 401 K plan, but we told our employees that we will not reduce the benefits or pay, but we will all have to work harder to absorb the losses that come with the downturn. Diana: “We’ve all seen the effects of the downturn, but through these troubled times, Mama Jeans has seen a 38% growth.” Susie: The downturn started about the same time as we opened our second location on Republic Road. At first that made us a little nervous because our biggest fear was that we would steal our own customers. It’s a great problem to have, but our first store on South Campbell was getting overcrowded, the checkout lines were getting longer, our staff was huge. We new we had to do something to clear the congestion. That’s when we decided to put a second location in. Our research showed we had enough of a customer base in south Springfield, in Ozark and Nixa to make a go of it and it has worked out well. The first few months we saw a slight dip in sales at the first store, but within a short time that came back.” Diana: “Our customers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. People who keep themselves informed and want to take care of themselves. Even though the economy has hurt everyone in some way, our customers seem to care about themselves so much that they want a health solution to their intake of food. Susie: “People are just recently trying to take care of their own health instead of leaving it all in someone else’s hands. Independent retailers are the largest employers of this nation, and they have never really received the tax breaks that they should. So I think if that happens like it’s supposed to, it will help small business and I hope it comes in time for everyone. I hope the stimulus packages they received are better spent this time around than last.”