Art Trooper: Faith and a Little Luck Save Studio

How the Fox Point art studio is surviving the troubled economy.

Editor's Note: While businesses slowly have more "for rent" signs out front and shoppers visiting those stores dwindle in numbers, some local business have found a niche and a way to survive despite the recession, while others have not. 

In this series, Fox Point-Bayside Patch takes a closer look at how some local businesses have thrived and survived the recession, and how others fell victim to the economic turmoil.

When Ann Deuser opened in 2008, she had no idea that the recession would victimize many friends and neighboring business. And while she says selling luxury items like art can be worrisome in this economy, some luck and creativity have helped her business stick around.

“I sell a luxury item," Deuser said. "I worry that people will stop coming through the door if the economy sinks, again.”

Art Trooper, in Audubon Court, is a do-it-yourself art and event center for children and adults. The studio provides space, supplies and know-how for those looking to create art such as wet clay pieces, paint-your-own-pottery, dried flower arrangements and even jewelry.

“Consumers need food, gas, rent, and clothing — they don't need entertainment,” she said.

So how has Art Trooper survived the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression?

“This tough economy has forced me to be more thrifty, creative, investigative and grateful," she said. "I work a lot of hours so I can keep my labor costs low. Instead of hiring people to make capital improvements — such as painting, store improvements, bookkeeping, etc. — my husband and I do them.”

Deuser said it's more than just keeping a light staff, though; it's creative marketing and networking.

“I don't keep a lot of extra inventory on hand, because I don't want my capital stored in back-room inventory," she said. "My marketing programs are inexpensive such as utilizing Facebook, the Internet and partnering with other organizations.”

But surviving the recession has also required sacrifice. 

“When we first started, I had to let people go," she said. "I was paying more to workers compensation, insurance and payroll services than I was in wages. It's expensive to hire people — too expensive.”

Luck and Lost Jobs

In the past couple of years, Deuser, a Bayside resident, has seen friends lose jobs and their businesses because of the recession. However, she said it's not always because they made a bad choice, sometimes it's just the bad economy.

“I've seen hard-working people with smart business plans throw in the towel. Sometimes the ‘smart ones’ know when to cut their losses,” she said. “Empty storefronts don't mean the business owner did something wrong. Many of these businesses did everything right, the economy just went wrong.”

In the end, Deuser doesn’t claim to be a business genius, just fortunate and humbled.

“I don't think of myself as successful — just lucky,” she said. “I'm not sure why our business is still standing. But, I know I'm lucky. Lucky to have a supportive family, strong faith and an innate sense that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Plus, many people around me, including my customers, were very encouraging.”

lmasset August 28, 2011 at 02:01 AM
My daughter attended this camp and LOVED it. We loved to see her work and hear the facts and history that Ann and her helpers taught the class. We will definitely be sending our daughter back to Art Trooper for camp next summer. This was money well spent, in spite of the economy.
Sarah Worthman September 08, 2011 at 03:44 PM
That's great! Ann really does run a unique business and seems to make a lot of people very happy. I'm posting another Surviving America real shortly here. This one's on Pack and Ship. You'll have to comment on that one too ;)


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