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Grape (of Wrath) Expectations Downtown 

Wandering around downtown Bend the other day, The Eye dropped in at a local business we have been patronizing for the past five years or

Wandering around downtown Bend the other day, The Eye dropped in at a local business we have been patronizing for the past five years or so and asked whether the local real estate bust and the national Great George W. Bush Depression were affecting business.

"It's down by 30% over last year," the proprietor told us.

Now, this isn't a fancy-schmancy, ritzy-glitzy spa; it's a basic business that provides a basic (though not strictly essential) service. And times have gotten so tough hereabouts that people are opting to do without this service - even though the owner recently dropped prices 10% in hopes of making it easier on them.

To top it off, the proprietor said his landlord is demanding a rent increase of almost 20%. The small businessman is wondering how long he can keep his doors open.

"I don't understand why the landlord would want to force you out," we said. "I mean, you're a good tenant and at least he's getting income from the space. If it stands empty he gets zilch."

"Oh, I think they expect to get another retail business in here," the owner said.

Right. Another cutesy, boutique-y little shop selling jewel-studded belly-button rings that will be out of business within six months.

But the landlord won't care because he probably figures he can always find another suck ... uh, businessperson to rent the space. There seems to be a limitless supply of naïve individuals wanting to live the "dream" of having their own business, despite the forbidding odds. (Pegasus Books owner and blogger Duncan McGeary can tell plenty of tales about that.)

More anecdotal evidence of hard times: The Eye seems to be seeing less foot traffic downtown and less car traffic on downtown streets - as far as that goes, less traffic on streets all over. Fewer people commuting to jobs because they no longer have jobs? Fewer people going shopping because they have no money to shop with? Who knows?

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