Businesses close for few days' rest

Chris Allison is counting down the days until vacation. For Allison, that will mean shutting the doors and turning out the lights at Auto Works Collision Center, so she and her husband and their employees can have some time off next week.

As do a number of small-business owners in the area, the Allisons say closing down is the only way to make a vacation work for them.

The lost revenue is more than made up by a sense of rejuvenation when they return, they say.

Audrey Luong, assistant manager of the Golden House at 504 S. Broadway, said, "It's good for everyone to have a week off."

The time off often provides "a fresh perspective on how to improve the business," she said.

The Golden House, a family-owned restaurant with four or five employees, closed for a week in July. Some years, it closes only a few days, Luong said; other years, it closes for more than a week.

Marcia Stevens, regional director of the Kansas Small Business Development Center at Wichita State University, has several clients who close for a week or two. "They plan in advance.... They let everybody know in advance, and it works just fine," she said.

It can't be done on the spur of the moment — but it is worth doing. "Obviously, it's an intangible," Stevens said, "but I think everybody appreciates a little time off."

Cortez Restaurant at 344 W. 29th St. North always closes the first two weeks of July, said co-owner Mary Cortez.

"This year, we were thinking about maybe just doing one week because of business being down because of the economy," she said.

But the need for rejuvenation and some financial calculations changed their mind.

It's easier to close completely than to try to schedule vacations and fill-in staffing for 10 full-time and a dozen part-time employees, she said.

WSU's Stevens agreed. She also noted, "If you've got key people who are out, it impacts everybody."

With 20 years of experience, Brent Coats, who owns BC Auto Repair at 2130 W. Second St., knows that the week of July 4 will be slow for him, so he closes up shop then.

"It's always dead," he said, and "it's a good time to spend with your family."

Striking a balance

Fourth of July week is slow at Cheri's Bakery, too, so owner Cheri Kovacic closes that week. She also closes the week between Christmas and New Year's.

Yes, she might miss a few wedding cakes for New Year's Eve weddings and, a couple of years ago, for those who wanted a 7/7/7 wedding.

But graduation, June weddings and the winter holidays mean she and her staff have worked 12-hour days and six-day weeks going into vacation, she said, "so from a financial sense, that's always a good time to close."

The overtime her employees earn ahead of vacation helps them balance the unpaid time off, "just as the higher sales help balance my operating expenses," she said.

Timing is important, she said. May and June help fund July, and the last quarter is always the best quarter of the year.

"You have to make sure you have the income coming in," she said. "But I would never do anything differently. Never."

The Allisons began warning customers in July, posting their vacation dates on their sign at 6121 W. Central.

When they started in business 21 years ago, they never took a day off, Allison said. But eight years in, their daughter was diagnosed with cancer, which "restacked our priorities in a big hurry."

The Allisons took a family vacation that year — and tried to run their business via phone along the way. It wasn't a good way to run a business, and it wasn't a good vacation, so they decided closing completely was the only option.

For a couple of years, Allison would check the answering machine during vacation. Now, she doesn't even do that.

From a revenue standpoint, "it hurts for a small business," she said. "It hurts a lot.

"But your sanity... there are other very important things to me than just your business."

The six Auto Works employees decide collectively when vacation should be. "It's been June. It's been July. It's been September," Allison said. This year's begins Sunday.

Allison knows that some business is lost because of the vacation week, though she couldn't estimate how much.

"It's just something we've learned to kind of accommodate for — to hold back money so we can take care of things," she said.

As for her daughter, who started the whole vacation thing, "she has done fantastic," Allison said. "You wouldn't know."