Wed, Aug

Shutting the Doors: The Pain at the Bottom of Our Broken Economy

MY TURN - Once a booming store, Max’s Place – a small retail store that has clothed hundreds of San Pedro women for 20 years – plans to shut its doors within the next two weeks.

Through tears and smiles, Ann-Margaret “Max” Beyda said no matter how hard she tried, she was unable to turn the store around despite the money she poured back into it.

“I stood on my head to figure out if I could turn it around,” said Beyda, 60, who said she will soon be looking for a full-time job. “Last year was really bad, but this year was worse. You can endure a slow time … but you can’t endure it past a certain point.”

The economy “is eroding fast,” she added.

For weeks now, the store’s stock was slashed to 50 percent off, clearing out the shop and leaving less than 10 percent of what it once carried.

Customers have been warm and respectful, hugging her to say goodbye, Beyda explained, adding that she soon would be seeking work in customer relations. The shop, at 25th Street and Western Avenue in the Von’s plaza, was a thriving business when it first opened two decades ago and continued on that steady path for nearly two decades.

But that began to change three years ago as the economy slumped.

“Everybody who has come in here has been sweet and supportive,” the shop owner said. “It’s really touching how many people have been reaching out to me. One lady came in and said: ‘Don’t you dare close.’”

Known as a higher end outlet store, Max’s carried brand names, such as True Grit, for half the prices of other stores or online. It primarily catered to a stream of middle class women.

While there were blips along the way, most years were healthy and Beyda was able to make a good living for her and her son, Robert, now 25.  A steady decline hit the store about three years ago and continued a downward spiral despite that she took out loans and tried to make a comeback.

Her son, who attends California State University Dominguez Hills finally encouraged her to shut Max’s doors.

“When I was stressing, my son said: “It’s like a sponge – a bottomless pit. You put the money in and it sucks it down,” Beyda said with tears in her eyes. “I’m going through the grieving process.”

Like so many small shops and cafes, the weakening economy punched out many small businesses – and continues to do so – making many wonder out loud if there will be much left of a middle class. In the shopping center, three other stores remain shuttered after closing three years ago.

Those closures, including a Hallmark gift store, ate away at shopping center’s foot traffic, Beyda said.

Keeping the store running became more problematic when inventory wasn’t moving. Without incoming cash, she couldn’t freshen up the store with new stock.

“I don’t have feast days anymore,” she concluded, adding that as soon as possible, she will beat the streets in search of a job.

(Diana Chapman is a CityWatch contributor and has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can reach her at:  [email protected] or her website: theunderdogforkids.blogspot.com) –cw

Tags: Max’s Place, San Pedro, shutting doors, economy, True Grit, Ann Margaret “Max” Beyda, jobs

Vol 9 Issue 74
Pub: Sept 16, 2011