In the midst of recurring optimistic national commentaries on an improved and upward-bound economy, two Mountain Area businesses are in the process of closing.
After 42 years in business, Pants 'n Things, which opened in 1971, is slowly selling off its inventory.
Ruth Santos, 77, of Coarsegold, opened the shop along Highway 41 in Oakhurst in 1971 with her husband, Chester, who passed away in June 2009.
"It's the end of an era," said Santos. "We've been here a long time, but there comes a time when you just can't make it anymore." Santos made it clear that this closure really had little to do with the closure of Yosemite, but has been a long-time coming.
"During the peak years, when the store was doing well," Santos explained, "we would have a couple hundred customers pass through weekly, with half of those making purchases, but sales have dropped over the past few years due to the poor economy."
While Santos is unable to estimate what percentage of customers she's lost over the years due to her involvement in other aspects of the business, she is painfully aware of the loss in revenue.
Today, she has returned to the sales floor, along with her granddaughter, Collette, who is helping with the business closure.
For Santos, a kind-hearted and soft-spoken woman, the decision to close has been a difficult one. Even more difficult, though, was having to break the news to her employees. "That was so traumatic," she said. "I had to let go faithful and wonderful employees, one of whom, Lovita Godfrey, has been with me for about 11 years. The other, Jaye Howes, has worked off and on for me for a long time, too. I hope I will still see them because I'll miss them."
Once the store is closed, Santos said she will spend more time with her family, especially her two great-grandchildren. She would also like to travel to Switzerland to visit family she hasn't seen since 1996.
Because this property, where the self-service car wash, EZ Mart, and clothing shop now sit, is considered all one unit, Santos will not be able to sell just one building, so it's unclear what her plans are once the inventory has been depleted in Pants 'n Things.
When Santos and her husband first purchased the land, it was one giant hole. They had the hole filled, brought the ground up to street level and began building in 1970. The Santos' also owned the Chevron Station on Road 417 in Coarsegold, which they sold about 10 years ago.
Currently, Pants 'n Things is only open Saturdays.
Another local business falling victim to the sluggish economy, is Blockbuster, which is scheduled to close Oct. 25. "Because of a steady decline in business, we just don't generate enough income," said Pete Hacker, manager for about four months. Hacker believes they have lost customers due to NetFlix and Redbox.
Blockbuster employs a total of six, four of whom have other opportunities and two of whom face lay-offs, including Hacker.
"I ran two stores in Las Vegas simultaneously," he said, "and a few months after relocating here to be with family, I learned this store would be closing. I'm disappointed and so are the customers who have been coming here for years."
Diane Altimus of Oakhurst is one such disheartened customer. "I have been a regular customer of Blockbuster's since the store opened," she explained, "and I'm not happy that it's closing. I like to choose movies by actually looking at them, rather than going online or using Redbox."
Oakhurst's Blockbuster, which opened in 1998, is one of three stores affected in the region.