Family-owned business adapts in uncertain economy

Presidential campaigns know entrepreneurs could tip vote

RALEIGH — Captain Stanley’s has been in business for 38 years, watching the economy rise and fall, neighboring restaurants thrive and diminish, and the climate alter for small businesses in North Carolina.Heath Stanley, who is manager of the family owned restaurant, said one of the key aspects of their success is adapting to the market and its customers’ needs. One way is lowering prices when the economy is struggling, he said.”One thing that is guaranteed in life is all people will eat, so the trick is to adjust your offerings accordingly to market conditions,” Stanley said. “You can offer less expensive items if things got really bad. There is always an opportunity to serve food.”He also said Captain Stanley’s has added different menu items to attract a different age demographic. The restaurant has a declining senior citizen cliental.”The baby boomers are coming of age,” Stanley said. “They have a different palette. They are more health conscious than the senior citizens. They are looking for more broiled and grilled items. We’ve definitely upped our offerings.”Captain Stanley’s offers calabash seafood, which Stanley said helped the restaurant stay in business by offering something different.”The backbone of our business is great value,” Stanley said. “It’s about offering good quality products at a good price, and the value is really unmatched anywhere.”Helping small businesses thrive has been a talking point for presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. North Carolina is home to about 800,000 small businesses with 1.5 million people working for a small business. Raleigh’s Briggs Hardware displays the cardboard cutouts of Clinton and Trump, and Lara Trump has spoke to customers and supporters of the Republican at the historic shop. Clinton grabbed a bite to eat post-rally with President Barack Obama at Charlotte’s Midwood Smokehouse. The campaigns have stopped at establishments across the state to eat, talk about their tax plans, and tour small businesses.Trump has used his business as a way to show he is qualified to lead the country economically, and Clinton has shared stories about her dad running a small printing business.Stanley does not believe a new president will bring about instant change, but said he would prefer tax cuts and less government regulation while acknowledging the impact of legislation may take several years. He added many economic changes are often delayed, so he struggles to know who to point the finger at when the economy is doing well or not. “Being able to purchase intelligently and operate efficiently without a lot of waste helps you get to be stronger in market downturn and profitable in market upswings no matter what the political climate is,” Stanley said.Some small businesses owners, though, have attempted to impact legislation on a more local level, like speaking out about gerrymandering, H.B. 2 and sidewalk ordinances.According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, small businesses — defined as any business that employs less than 500 employees — comprise of about 98 percent of all North Carolina businesses. They also employ 46 percent of the state’s private workforce.