Local News

May 1, 2014

At energetic expo, local business owners see signs of economic rebound

“You give it your all.”

That’s the biggest lesson Hank Fetzer says he learned after he helped start a business last year with his father Stan. But the importance of having drive, something his father taught him, also meant his father was someone he “didn’t see much” growing up.

“He always had two jobs for most of my life, so he wasn’t at home much,” Hank Fetzer said. “Working with him now? It’s helped us bond. All the catering we do together is great. I’m usually the one who goes with him, so, you know, it’s just us. I’m proud of him.”

Hank Fetzer, who serves at the Buckin’ Burrito, was promoting his father’s downtown Tex-Mex restaurant Thursday afternoon at the 11th annual Business Expo at the trade center. The expo is put on by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. The restaurant is at 212 N. Hamilton St.

Hank Fetzer said the closer he gets to his father, the more the business seems to grow. To hear other local business owners talk, the Buckin’ Burrito isn’t alone. The consensus on Thursday seemed to be that the Dalton area is showing signs of life after years of sluggish recovery coming off the national recession.

That optimism is why JaneMarie Wilson said she is moving her homemade cooking business out of her house and to a building at 109 N. Pentz St., formerly the site of the Coffee Train.

“During Christmas rush, I’m real busy with cookies,” Wilson said. “Last Christmas, everybody in my family and some friends — we were all just icing cookies, making cookies, packing cookies, and I was very ready to get out of house and have a building. I just had to take a deep breath then. It will come. You just have to be patient and let the business grow itself. Don’t try to force it.”

While she is excited to move downtown, she says she plans to continue selling online.

“I’ve had an Internet company (www.mamawilsons.com) for about two years,” she said. “Baking and shipping all over the country from out of my house. And, in two weeks, we open downtown. I’m so excited. I’m happy to go local. I love meeting people. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be there.”

Irene Wheat, owner of Irene’s Cake and Candy Supply at 304 Springdale Road, said seeing many new local businesses at the expo reminded her of opening doors 18 years ago. She knows the fear that comes from those first few years of owning a business and the nagging possibility of failure.

“I just prayed about it when I was scared,” she said. “You just got to hang in there. It’s worth it to see people excited over a cake, when they say ‘You know what, that’s beautiful’ or ‘That tastes so good.’ That’s rewarding.”

Hank Fetzer said the Buckin’ Burrito’s growth has also been rewarding, adding that his father is looking at possibly opening a second restaurant in Catoosa County sometime in the next year.

“At the very beginning, when not a lot of people had heard about us, it was kind of struggling to get on its feet,” he said. “For a couple of months there, my dad was working from opening to closing every day (11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week). There were a couple of days where it really seemed like nothing was happening. But we hung in there and things have been steadily going up.”

Fetzer said the increase in “foot traffic” he’s seen downtown this year is the biggest sign to him that Dalton is rebounding economically. And that’s “good news” for everyone investing in downtown, he added.

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