Although 24th Street from Valencia to Folsom remains full of foot traffic, merchants said few customers are walking into their stores and sales have yet to recover.  Nevertheless, instead of layoffs, many are cutting hours or trying other innovations including selling aging elixirs.

“We don’t whine about it and work hard,” said Martha Andrade, owner of Gacela Professional Hair Designers where business is down 20 percent compared to last year. Nevertheless, she’s kept her three employees and so far hasn’t cut their hours.

Despite a city unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, the jewelers, artisans and restaurants along 24th street said they haven’t yet had significant layoffs, but they are feeling the recession in lower revenues.

Some had to make major changes to survive.

“We are starting to sell natural products,” said Alejandro Morales, owner of Monserrat Jewelry and Loans. Morales said that the jewelry business started going down two and a half years ago, so the store became a pawnshop as well.

That was not enough, so Morales plans to launch a health products business: Energizer capsules, fiber powder for weight loss and anti-aging remedies will fill his shelves.

Eco Jewelers had a hard time too.

“We had to restructure the way of doing things,” said Jose Campos, the owner. This meant cutting everyone’s hours, getting rid of the fax and turning the lights on only when it’s dark.

Campos said these changes enabled them to keep his three employees.

At the legal offices of Herrera-Escobar Service, Karim Guardique, an administrative assistant said their business had slowed, “but there are always divorces and marriages.”

At Mixcoatl Arts and Crafts, the owner, Connie Rivera said, “We open later and we close earlier.” Sales had dropped and for Rivera, it doesn’t make sense to open the store if there are no customers. However, Rivera expects things to get better: “We have faith.”

Claudia Rodriguez, the cashier of Tonayense Taquería, said, “Slow,” referring to the business – as a result the owner has cut employee hours.

Only a handful of the businesses said that they had not been affected.

“Every year the business goes up in the cold season,” said Carmen Elias, the owner of La Mejor Bakery. Her revenues too are expected to rise and so she hasn’t cut hours or let anyone go.

Phil Jaber, owner of Philz Coffee said he has no complaints. “In this economy I opened five shops and hired 50 people,” he said.

There are some that felt the recession in a positive way.

“It is better than last year,” said Dan Borg, owner of The House of Brakes. He thinks that the closing of similar businesses like Ellis Brooks Chevrolet and San Francisco Chrysler Jeep sent new customers his way. “They call and search online,” said Borg about how customers shop for the best price. “I’ve been here over 30 years and my prices are good.”

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Veronica Moscoso, is an Ecuadorian storyteller who narrates through radio, video, and short stories. She lived in the Middle East, South East Asia and now in California.

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