2 Florala closings could hurt

Published 1:11 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cost Plus owner Leron Geohagan bags groceries for Carrie Hardee and her daughter Caylee.

It is too soon to tell how the closing of two Florala businesses will affect sales tax collections, but a third business owner said Friday he could soon be added to the “closed” list.

City Clerk Kathy Rathel said $35,310 was collected for sales made in June, but remitted to the city in July. It also includes sales made during the annual June 24th Masonic Celebration. Year-to-date, that total is nearly $307,000 – an increase of 6.5 percent above budgeted projections.

That figure also includes revenue generated by local restaurants Country Folks Buffet and Bean’s Diner – both of which are now closed. Country Folks shut down the third week of July after being flooded by raw sewage. Owner Dwight Day said previously he did not know when the restaurant would re-open.

Bean’s Diner closed at the end of July because of rising operational costs.

“Luckily, we have not had a decrease in sales taxes, but it may be too soon to tell,” Rathel said. “I think it’ll be next month before we (can see a difference), but right now we are still holding above last year.”

Leron Geohagan, owner of Cost Plus, said his customer numbers, and in turn his sales, have greatly decreased over the last year.

“In July, I had 4,765 customers that month, which sounds like a lot,” Geohagan said. “But, when you consider that last July, I had 6,411, you can see the difference.”

Geohagan said the lagging sales have hurt business on two fronts.

“Right now, I have coolers down, but I can’t get them fixed because there’s no money to fix them,” he said. “Then, the shelves are bare because there’s no money to restock them. It hurts us all – me, my customers, my employees.”

He said the economy has had an impact on sales.

“On the other side, most people who live in Florala, work some place else, so they buy their groceries before coming home,” he said. “I’ve also had people come in and say they’re buying their WIC items here, but going across the state line to buy groceries.”

Geohagan said this month is “do or die” for his store.

“Within the month, if something doesn’t happen, it’s the end for us,” he said.

Currently, Geohagan employs one fulltime person and four part-time people.