Though the song has been around since the 1930s, “Georgia On My Mind” has been a classic since it was recorded in the 1960s by Ray Charles. And though Georgia has always had several appealing qualities on its side — warm weather, friendly people, peaches and pecan pie all spring immediately to mind — the state has also spent the last several years shaping up into a very healthy home for its store fronts statewide.
By The Store Front Numbers
Like some of its individual state brethren, Georgia has been able to break free of any real growth torpor. The South as a whole is doing solid business, with 3.6 percent growth, and better than the 3.1 percent seen for the country overall.
But Georgia smoked those figures with a 5.7 percent gain in the second quarter of 2015. The South itself saw some stickiness in wages, with that segment of growth showing up at 4.7 percent year over year in the second quarter, with the actual cross-pollination of the creation of store fronts coming in at 3.6 percent, showing at least some confidence in both business creation and the intent to ramp them up to well-staffed levels.
On The Ground
Georgia merchants that we spoke to are clearly feeling their state’s strong growth rate, as we heard very few grim prognostications of doom on our short sojourn into the deepest parts of the Deep South.
“We’ve definitely seen signs of the economy turning around, especially in the last 18 months,” Marcus Alveres, owner of Statesboro’s 40 East Grill. “People are eating out more, they are ordering more and we are seeing huge pickup in delivery and pickup orders.”
That last pickup, he noted, came this year as the restaurant made a major update of its website and mobile site, making it easy for regular customers to order and go with a few taps.
It was enthusiasm that was matched by Tess Abbott, owner and operator of Blissful Buddha Pet Services, which does exactly what it sounds like it does: grooms, boards, walks and cares for people’s pets (particularly their dogs).
“I think when I told people I was opening in 2008, it was hard to understand, but I have no regrets. I built the service that I could get anywhere, and it was hard, but I’ve never really looked back.”
Which is not to say merchants we spoke to had no concerns. Many noted that the increasing rents, particularly in larger cities like Atlanta and Savannah, were starting to seriously eat into profitability.