Economy Falters in Mission and Lay-offs Mount

FEW CUSTOMERS: Maisie Wong (right) talk to her boss, Chek Chew Ng as two customers take a look at goods in their store. Wong said her store sales continued to plunge, so she had no choices but to lay off workers. (Moch N. Kurniawan)

FEW CUSTOMERS: Maisie Wong (right) talk to her boss, Chek Chew Ng as two customers take a look at goods in their store. Wong said her store sales continued to plunge, so she had no choices but to lay off workers. (Moch N. Kurniawan)

By MOCH N. KURNIAWAN

As major U.S. companies continue to report layoffs and poor earnings, the Mission District economy is also faltering, according to interviews with 23 local business representing the neighborhood’s top three employers: service, retail and manufacturing.

Nine businesses, primarily retail, have laid off employees, and six said that they have either seen sales decline or cut working hours.

FEW CUSTOMERS: Maisie Wong (right) talk to his husband, Check Chew Ng as two customers take a look at goods in their store. Wong said her store sales continued to plunge, so she had no choices but to fire all her two employees. (Moch. N. Kurniawan)

FEW CUSTOMERS: Maisie Wong (right) talk to her boss, Chek Chew Ng as two customers take a look at goods in their store. Wong said her store sales continued to plunge, so she had no choices but to lay off workers. (Moch N. Kurniawan)

Eight out of the 23 remained in a good shape, but some worried that they would feel the downturn’s impact soon.

Some 47 percent of all businesses in the Mission are in the services sector, 27 percent in retail, and six percent are in the manufacturing sector, according to the Mission Economic Development Agency report of 2006.

The three sectors represent 68 percent of the Mission’s employment opportunities, according to the report.

“The economy has been bad in the past few years, and it is getting worse this year,” said Maisie Wong, the manager of A.C. Trading Co on Saturday. “Our sales have continued to plunge, so we had no choices but to fire our workers. It’s only me and my husband now.”

Her store, which sells, among other things, clothes, electric goods, stationery bags, and kitchen supplies, was indeed filled with goods rather than customers on Saturday.

Wong said she laid off one employee last March and another in June.

Like Wong, five of the nine businesses that slashed jobs are in retail, two are in services, and another two are in manufacturing.

UNPROMISING TAQUERIA: A restaurant in the Mission. A worker said the restaurant sales had dropped due to the economic turmoil.

UNPROMISING TAQUERIA: A restaurant in the Mission. A worker said the restaurant sales had dropped due to the economic turmoil.

Only two customers came into the store during the interview with Wong, but then left without buying anything.

“It’s just difficult to survive now,” Wong said. “We are forced to carry out great sales almost all the time.”

Elsy’s restaurant owner Jaime Gonzales shared the grim economic look.

“My restaurant, CA Golden Chicken, went bankrupt January this year and three workers had to lose jobs,” he said. “In here (Elsy’s), I laid off two employees in August, kept the other two and I must work myself in this restaurant.”

Gonzales said Elsy’s saw an 80 percent drop in sales in the last year.

“Not much I can do now, I just want to hang on and see my son graduate from UC Berkeley next year,” he said as he worked the cash register.

Although his business has plummeted, Gonzales energetically served his customers.

In manufacturing, Advance Pleating and Button Co., which designs and creates textile trimmings, has also been hit hard by the economic crisis.

“Our sales slumped 60 percent last month,” Greg Cruz, the owner, said. “Two weeks ago I cut three workers and two more last week, leaving only one worker with me.”

At 2:30 p.m. on Monday his factory on Florida St. was quiet. Cruz was alone in his office, located off the main hall loaded with tables, machines, and yarn.

The layoffs and sales slumps in the retail, services and manufacturing industries reflect the bleak economic situation in the District, as they are the Mission’s economic backbone.

The owners called on the government to ease their burden such by delaying the minimum wage increase until the economy recovers. They also recommended reducing the sales tax.

TOUGHEST TIME: Erie auto-truck repair, established in 1926 on 18th St., looks quiet. The owner said he had cut one worker to remain survive.

TOUGHEST TIME: Erie auto-truck repair, established in 1926 on 18th St., looks quiet. The owner said he had cut one worker to remain open.

“The government must suspend the minimum wage hike as long as the economic mayhem prevails,” Wong said. “Postponing the new parking fee of $1.50 per hour would be another good idea to lure people into the Mission.”

Jimmy Patel of the House of Jeans, who has lost six workers, concurred.

He said the 8.5-percent sales tax should be cut to 5 percent to help businesses recover from the difficult time.

But others including Gonzales and Cruz didn’t believe the government would be the cure.

“Believe in the government, hmh no…,” Gonzales said. ”Better to believe that the business cycle will be back positive next year.”

Filed under: Business

6 Comments

  1. Hey, great little piece of story. Your effort to do the interview directly with the store owners made this article alive with specific facts and captured emotions. Great job! IBeN – SIF 96

  2. Dian

    Halo Mas,

    your article bring out the situation in Mission to the surface, which uniquely, brought by an Indonesian writer instead of local one.

    And reading your effort of doing the research for this article…just awesome.
    Tetap membara dalam semangat! Dian Maharani SIF 2003

  3. Tony Platt

    Thanks for this thoughtful and disturbing story. How about another one on what’s happening with corporate business in the mission, and maybe another on economic impact on real estate? Glad to see the focus on economics.

  4. halo mas I just want to say hi to you, haiiiii :p
    *hallah gak nyambung.

  5. Thoughtful and witty piece. More stories written by the same author, please…

  6. Jocelyn Noe

    Moch, very informative, succinct piece of story you wrote. This economic crisis is the same everywhere. In the hospital where I work where you think hospitals are insulated from this trouble, they laid off 18 workers. It’s sad when Christmas is just around the corner. Just hope the economic situation will improve soon. But Pres. Clinton says, it will take 3 years before it gets better… yay yay yay…

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