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10:29 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Small businesses thrive in Prescott, Prescott Valley

El Gato Azul in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

El Gato Azul in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

When you think of business, you might think of Walmart, Amazon, or maybe McDonald’s, or an airline, such as American or Delta.

But, in reality, small businesses — which are defined as those with fewer than 500 employees — make up 99.7 percent of all businesses in the United States. That adds up to nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S.

Many are very small: over 22 million are self-employed with no employees.

Some, like Smart Girls Resale Fashion in Prescott Valley, have more. Owner Jamie Goeringer employs seven, both full- and part-time. Her consignment shop is 3,300 square feet of women’s clothes.

“We opened on Dec. 1, 2008, at the bottom of the (recession),” she said, “My daughter (JoAnne) and I opened the store on a wing and a prayer.

“We just wanted to do something together,” she said. “We didn’t even think about it, we just did it. And, as it turns out, it’s the perfect business to have in the bottom of a crash, because women still like to shop, but they don’t have the money to pay retail.”

One challenge to running the business: owning a store with a family member.

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Owner Jamie Goeringer stands in Smart Girls Resale Friday, May 4, 2018 in Prescott Valley. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

“It’s hard when you’re in business with family, because when you’re together, it’s always about business,” Goeringer said.

She said she “got her family back” when JoAnne decided to leave the shop to spend more time being a wife and mother.

“It’s a hurdle to be in business with your daughter, but it’s also a rich, rich blessing.”

Goeringer’s shop is representative of small businesses in general, said Marnie Uhl, president and CEO of the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“The majority of our businesses in the region are small businesses employing less than 25 people,” she said. “They are the backbone of our economy providing jobs, services, retail and hospitality opportunities and a variety of products. To have this small business base supports our residents and community members, providing them with local opportunities to do business, meaning the money stays here.”

The Prescott Chamber announced a new program designed to promote local businesses last year. Called “Shop Prescott: Start Here,” it was launched “because local brick-and-mortar businesses have made a significant investment in our community, and are impacted by online businesses that extract money from the local economy and leave little behind,” said Sheri Heiney, president of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce. “It’s time to stand up for them, and invite our residents and visitors to do the same.”

Barry Barbe, owner of Prescott’s El Gato Azul restaurant, said he likes the ability to change direction that being in charge gives him.

“It’s the flexibility to do what you want to do — when you make changes, it’s faster than a corporate environment,” he said. “I think we can better serve the needs of our clients.”

After 14 years running his restaurant, Barbe said Prescott is a good place for entrepreneurs.

“Prescott’s a great little town for small businesses. I think they’ve learned that, and I think it’s why you don’t see all the big boxes in the area.”