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Lincoln affected by economy, despite high growth

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln may have ranked No. 4 on the Gadberry Group’s list of nine notable high-growth areas in the United States but Lincoln is still being affected by the slumping economy. The economy has affected homeowners and several businesses in town have closed as a result, the most recent one being Cuppy’s Coffee, which closed Dec. 30. Paul Criswell, Cuppy’s owner, said a few factors led to the coffee shop’s closing. While his customer count was increasing, sales were picking up slowly and weren’t enough to keep Cuppy’s open, according to Criswell. “I think the biggest problem was that the (shopping) center never filled up,” Criswell said, adding that McDonald’s had added coffee to its menu around the time Cuppy’s Coffee opened. While McDonald’s was not “big competition,” Criswell said, it forced Cuppy’s Coffee to keep their prices low. For Sports Clips, located in the same shopping center as Cuppy’s, business is good. “We’re actually doing pretty well, and staying steady,” said Sport’s Clips manager Lilja Birtcal. “It’s because men always need to get their hair cut.” Criswell said coffee has become the “least amount of worry” for people, and “is not a necessity.” He said residents can drink coffee at home for 50 cents a cup, instead of paying $4 for a latte. “We had a lot of great customers and we made a lot of good friends,” he said. “I hope the independents (coffee shops) survive and my going out helps them.” One of those independent coffee shops in Lincoln includes Mina’s Coffee House, opening in Lincoln Hills seven months ago. “We’re doing great and holding steady,” said owner Mina Rahimi-Reid. “Sales are not drastically growing but we’re building a good clientele and I can’t complain.” She attributes the coffee house’s success to customer service and that “people are liking the coffee and atmosphere.” Rahimi-Reid said her customers say that “it’s a great place to hang out, meet people and socialize.” “For being open seven months, I think we’re doing darn good,” she added. Cuppy’s Coffee is not the only business to have closed down in 2009. String’s Italian Café, Applebee’s and Panera Bread are among a few businesses that have closed last year. It is not all bad news, though, because new businesses have also opened last year, including Brain Freeze, The Pink Box and Guiding Fitness. When it comes to real estate, Mel Ewing, a Realtor with Arrow realty, said 2009 has been “one of my busiest years.” “People are taking advantage of short sales, bank repo’s and the first time homebuyers tax credit,” Ewing said Friday. “I think prices are as low as they are going to be and offers ended up being at or above asking price with multiple offers.” Ewing said 75 percent of the homes for sale in Lincoln are currently short sales, 20 percent are bank repossessions and five percent are normal sales. So why have short sales and bank repossessions increased? Ewing said there is a combination of factors, including state furloughs, job losses and adjustable- rate mortgages. Homebuyers with adjustable-rate mortgages could have started out with a low interest rate on their mortgages, hoping to refinance or sell their homes when interest rates went up, Ewing said. Banks are either denying loan modifications or moving slowly with them so homeowners are using short sales to sell their homes, according to Ewing. In addition, many short sales are because someone has lost their job, Ewing said, or their income has been reduced and they can no longer afford their house payments.