Merchants Of The Millennium

Businesses thrive and dive in the year of Y2K


At the dawn of 2000, many local merchants were apprehensive about their business prospects, not just because they were worried about the Y2K millennium bug, but because it was the first year they had to go head-to-head against a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

But in many cases, David fared well against Goliath.

George and Fran Yates opened the Rim Country Kids toy store in the Swiss Village Shops in 1995. Since then, they said, they've proven that good customer service and attention to detail are necessary ingredients for success. With that winning formula, the couple's business has boomed, and in October, they leased a larger store front in the Sawmill Crossing Shopping Center in south Payson.

"It's about 30 percent bigger than our old store," Fran said.

She and her husband attribute their success to their merchandising strategy they stock top-quality toys and sell them at reasonable prices.

"I think we were always filling a need in the community," she said. "We were a good alternative to Wal-Mart, because we were offering a completely different line of toys, catering to a different clientele."

But Rim Country Kids isn't the only small business in town that held its own against the "big box" store, she said.

"I don't think any of the specialty stores were really affected much," she said. "I think there will always be room for good, quality merchants in Payson."

Robert Higginbotham, owner of Payson Jewelers, said his business was "excellent" in 2000. Like Fran and George Yates, he attributes his success to an unwavering attention to quality.

"Wal-Mart in general sells a lot of jewelry," he said. "What we carry is a completely different style and quality of jewelry," such as the Four Peaks amethyst.

Local grocery stores also held their own against Wal-Mart's new supermarket section.

Dave Lyons, former Safeway manager, said his store took a slight hit in sales the first few months Wal-Mart's grocery section was open, but after the novelty wore off, sales evened out.

On the outs

Several local businesses did close up shop, however, and a number of them were not in direct competition with the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

After catering to the Rim country's fine-dining crowd for a decade, the Oaks Restaurant closed in August 2000.

Finding and keeping qualified help was a constant challenge, co-owner Jack Etter Sr. said. As soon as employees were hired and trained they'd skip off to other jobs, he said.

The Oaks wasn't driven out by the competition, he said. It was a family decision to control the timing and "go out on top."

Another name synonymous with Payson business also threw in the towel.

Jill Morgan of Morgan Realty Associates, formerly Dee Sams Action Realty, announced in December that due to the declining real estate market, she was closing her doors after 16 years in business.

"Business is down tremendously," Morgan said in December. Morgan also is the president of the Central Arizona Board of Realtors. "We're down $70,000 in gross income and about $45,000 in profits, which is a lot, and that's straight out of my pocket."

When Morgan Realty closed, it left the tiny shopping center at the northeast corner of Highways 87 and 260 virtually empty. JB's Restaurant, the center's anchor business, closed without notice last year, and Founder's Bank, which had occupied the center's corner suite, was bought out by Arizona Bank, and its accounts were moved to the Compass Bank on south Beeline Highway.

Scott Smith, who owned the Washtub laundromat for 12 years, also closed up shop not, he said, because he was done in by a sluggish economy, but because he was looking for greener pastures.

In October, Smith leased his business in the Swiss Village Shops to C-Pec Corporation of Phoenix.

"They had the capital and the desire to remodel and refurbish the business," Smith said. "After more than a decade in the laundry business, I was anxious to try my hand at other things."

While Smith still owns the land and the building off North Beeline Highway, he's now working part-time as special events coordinator for the Town of Payson.

New Businesses

Cigarettes Cheaper

The Carpenter's Wife

Smartstyle Family Hair Salon

Enterprise Rent-a-car

The Red Door

Strawberry Moon CafNorthern Arizona Cabinets

The Blindman of America

Ponderosa Village

Tall Pines Real Estate

Beeline Tattoo

Primerica Financial Services

Extreme Boardwalk

Payson Party Plus

Rim Country Inn

Indian Fry Bread

Compass Bank

Famous Sam's

Eagles Nest Art Gallery and Healing Center

Wal-Mart Supercenter

Orleans French Quarter Antiques

Oasis Christian Books & Gifts

Arizona Recycling Curbside Specialists

Cucina Paradiso

Pine Country Animal Clinic

Dead Businesses

TLC Car Wash

Heritage House

Hair By J.C. & Company

Unique Shoe Care

Payson Aviation Inc

Potter's Vision

The Art Box

First National Land Company

Barney's Last Resort

Cellular One

Swiss Village Bakery

Clothing Corral

Arizona Bank, Inc.

Cox Multi-print

Payson Farmers Market

Payson Hobbies

The Teapot

R&W Novelty Manufacturing Co. Inc.

The Oaks Restaurant

Bike-N-Hike, Inc

Country Corner

The Wash Tub

Payson Photo Express, LLC

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