I’ve spent a lot of time in Texas. That’s where I met my beautiful wife (a native Texan). It’s where all three of my children were born. We have an affinity for the Lone Star State, which is obvious from the decal on the front of our Suburban.
Among the many things we like about Texas is the food, particularly Mexican food… or more appropriately, Tex-Mex. Leaving Tex-Mex food behind was one of the hardest parts about transitioning to Florida, because there did not seem to be any good Mexican food in our new location… until two years ago.
Lucky for me, a new casual restaurant called Baja’s opened across the street from the office.
Now, obviously the name implies Cal-Mex, but the food was definitely more Texas oriented, which suited me just fine. For $7 or $8, I could get homemade corn tortillas, black beans, rice, pork and spicy guacamole on a bed of lettuce for lunch… and it was tasty! It makes me hungry just writing about it.
But then something happened…
I walked across the street last week to find that Baja’s had closed. There simply wasn’t enough business to keep the operation going, particularly in the face of rising food prices. Profits were being squeezed and the restaurant couldn’t raise its prices given that consumers have thin wallets these days.
In short, the restaurant was another casualty of the economic winter.
Then something else happened…
I ate lunch anyway. And that’s the real story here.
My restaurant experience is a microcosm of our larger economy. The economic winter that continues to rage is wreaking havoc on businesses small and large across the country.
Bankruptcies, layoffs, and store closings are so normal now that we simply don’t see them anymore. Granted, we’re a far cry from the economic standstill of 2009 and 2010, and some areas of the country, like Texas and Louisiana, are growing at a fast pace because of the energy boom.
But the overall pace of growth in the country is dismal at best, clocking in at just under 2%… even with the Federal Reserve printing money like a counterfeiter on speed.
We’re barely squeaking by. Wages are flat. Prices are rising. And businesses that rely on discretionary consumer dollars are most at risk.
These are not the hallmarks of an economy with a bright future. This is the hard scrabble life of working through a long, economic slump.
We work through it though. We get up and go to work. We spend time with our kids. We eat lunch… we just have fewer choices as we go about our days.
The economic winter is still here, we’ve just gotten used to it. But don’t forget it. Don’t invest in those businesses that rely on those discretionary consumer dollars. If your business is one of them, find ways to stream line (even better, find ways to become a necessity in your customers’ lives). And above all, build as many streams of income as you can.
In times like these, every penny counts.
Ahead of the Curve with Adam O’Dell
Among all the recent news surrounding the Japanese yen and the euro, it seems Mexico’s currency is oft forgotten. Even the ever-popular Swiss franc, or “Swissie,” gets more media attention than the peso, yet the size of Mexico’s economy (14th largest in the world) trumps Switzerland’s (19th largest).