Staying open through multiple recessions - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Staying open through multiple recessions

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- The tough economy is taking its toll on some businesses, forcing them to close, but there are other small or family businesses that have survived worse, going through the great depression and still going strong.

For more than 100 years, Knippel's Religious Goods has been in Dubuque. Owner Casey Reekie's great grandfather opened the store in 1901.

Several blocks down Main Street: another fourth generationer at Graham's Style Store. Ben Graham's great grandfather started in the clothing business in 1905 and opened his own store in 1936, right during the Great Depression.

"It certainly defies odds, but I don't know, he saw some sort of niche or some sort of role that he could play. And fortunately, after school, that role and niche was still there, so here I am," Graham said.

Graham says that niche market, combined with a product people need has meant success.

"They're going to continue wanting their white shirts and their suits and their clothing, and proms are going to happen no matter what, and weddings are going to come around and people are going to be married, and you know, life still continues to happen, and we're just there for those people," Graham said.

"When we see the times change in money, you get more conservative in your buying. You buy less, keep the inventory a little lower and work harder. Just work harder; do more things yourself," Reekie said.

Both businesses have stuck to original traditions, while keeping up with demand.  Graham's started selling shoes around six years ago and women's clothing just over a year ago.  Knippel's, realizing a need for more than Catholic supplies in town, is now branching out to more Protestant products.

But bottom line:  Both businesses say the most important factor in longevity is good customer service.

"Really, it's just relationships with customers, that's what gets you from 1905 or 1936 or wherever you want to start, to 2009," Graham said.

"If it's a 60 cent medal or a $60 rosary, they still get the same attention no matter what they're buying," Reekie said.

These business owners say the key is keeping steady to weather the economic highs and lows.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

Powered by Frankly