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New downtown businesses will help those already there

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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I was pleasantly surprised walking Friday through downtown Lincoln. That’s because I found three new businesses popping up on G and Fifth streets. After all, small stores, retail chains and restaurants across the country are closing, due to the poor economy. The businesses are shutting down, often after failed attempts to stay open by cutting hours and staff to the bare minimum. So I was happy to see three emerging businesses on G and Fifth streets – Lincoln Gun Exchange, J & D Nielson Fine Floors and Bella Jackson Studios - as I usually observe too many empty buildings in downtown Lincoln. I don’t like seeing the vacant buildings because the historic downtown, with its Beermann Plaza, Carnegie Library, Civic Center and Gladding, McBean clay factory; is very charming. Downtown Lincoln has plenty of potential. It’s a place that could draw in visitors seven days a week, much like the downtowns of nearby Grass Valley, Nevada City and Davis do. In fact, I’ve seen hundreds of out-of-towners flock to the G Street area during community events such as the annual Showcase and holiday parades. Having all the buildings occupied with a variety of stores and services would bring these out-of-town visitors back throughout the year, thus helping our local business owners every day of the year, not just during special events. So, at a time when many businesses and service-related companies nationwide are struggling to stay open, I was happy to see the addition of Lincoln Gun Exchange and J & D Nielson Fine Floors to G Street’s Lincoln Brand Feeds Building and Bella Jackson Studios to Fifth Street. But it’s not going to be easy for the new stores to be successful, without the support of residents. “Current statistics from the SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) says that about 50 percent of new businesses fail in the first five years,” said Lincoln’s Bill Duthler, a volunteer with SCORE, a nonprofit organization that provides advice for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. “That’s a number I believe is higher, if you read other books or magazines,” Duthler added. “I’d say the number of businesses failing is high, someplace between 50 and 80 percent, according to current literature.” Duthler and Gary Marshall, a public information officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration, both said that many businesses that fail are operating without a business plan. A plan, though, helps the owner understand what the business, is, who customers are, what competition is, where you get the money and how you spend the money, according to Marshall. After talking to Randy Johnson, the Lincoln Gun Exchange co-owner, on Friday, I’m confident his business is here for the long run in the Lincoln Brand Feeds Building (436 G St., Suite 100). His store will sell and trade hand and long guns from throughout the country, and offer Dealer’s Record of Sale transfers as required by the Department of Justice. “It has been a serious nine months of planning with lots of discussion with other dealers throughout the state and talking to the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and DOJ (Department of Justice),” said Johnson, a Sacramento Metropolitan fire captain and Lincoln resident. “Firearms seem to be on people’s minds,” Johnson said, “for self-protection and home protection. It’s a good time to open this business.” Coincidentally, Lincoln Brand Feeds Building was home to a former gun shop. “I’ve heard from other tenants here that people still come in and ask for the gun shop. I’m in the right place,” Johnson said. He and co-owner and his wife, Helen Johnson, plan on being “the friendliest gun store and the biggest gun store” in the area. They’re trying to make it as easy as possible for customers to remember them; their phone number is Mr1-Guns. And hopefully, the three new businesses will bring new customers to the already-established stores here. Because all the downtown businesses need more visitors to survive, especially in this tough economic environment. Now, if only someone would open a full-scale bakery downtown to complement all the other businesses …