Some merchants closing, but not giving up ship

Others open doors despite downturn

With the economy and consumer spending flatlining as a result of the deepening recession, local entrepreneurs struggled to balance their books and find ways to entice shoppers into their stores.

Not every business succeeded, and a handful - like Modish Maternity, Brooks Brothers and Bang & Olafsen - bucked the trend and opened their doors optimistic about better times ahead.

In La Jolla, a long-established Village business, La Jolla Fiber Arts gallery at 7644 Girard Ave., and Bird Rock’s Boll Weevil at 5755 La Jolla Blvd., succumbed to economic hard times even before the holiday shopping season - only for different reasons. But owners of both businesses say they’re not giving up completely.

Boll Weevil, which returned to La Jolla after being away for years, lasted just six months the second time around, closing its doors Dec. 10 after the courts forced the family owned- and operated- restaurant chain from Chapter 11 reorganization into Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Turnaround never came

With La Jolla Fiber Arts, an art gallery and retail boutique renowned for its textile art, it was the economic slowdown that finally led owner Lynn Nobel to close her brick-and-mortar shop after more than 11 years in business.

“We began to notice a downturn in sales about a year ago when our 2007 holiday revenues were significantly down from the previous year’s,” Nobel wrote in an e-mail to her many textile artists, explaining why she opted to hold a close-out sale that ended Dec. 18.

“As the year progressed, we really thought the marketplace would turn around … However, national economic indicators (and our sales records) confirmed what we were experiencing … the recession which began over a year ago.”

In Boll Weevil’s case, it turns out the credit crunch caused by the growing number of mortgage foreclosures ultimately led to a legal dilemma, which spelled its demise, at least for the time being.

“We had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization two years ago, and we were surprised when the courts liquidated us. When this happened, it was heart wrenching.” said Boll Weevil owner April Caulk, whose grandfather started the business.

Caulk said her company had asked the court to accept a 10-year plan for turning its business fortunes around. That wasn’t enough.

“They wanted a five-year plan,” she said. “But I only had six stores. I couldn’t do it with six stores.”

Moving to Plan B

But, all is not lost for either business.

Fiber Arts’ Noble said she intends to begin an online gallery at its Web site,

, in 2009.

“I’m excited about the possibilities and challenges of greater national exposure,” she said. “We have made many valuable friends, and I hope those great relationships will remain past our time in La Jolla.”

Boll Weevil’s Caulk, too, hasn’t given up hope of reviving her family business.

“I’ve turned it into a positive,” she said. “I’m talking to the other store’s landlords about leasing their buildings back (to me). I’d move in with the same menu, only a different name. We’d reopen with a great product, at a good price, a neighborhood restaurant, just like the one my grandfather started 40 years ago.”