GREER, S.C. — Small businesses are trying to balance patriotism with capitalism as they look for the edge necessary to make it through rough economic times.
From letting people take a sledgehammer to a car with Osama bin Laden’s name on it, to offering a $9.99 oil change only to American-made cars, they are coming up with creative business ideas while trying to avoid the appearance that they’re cashing in on patriotism.
Sales at used car lot Thoroughbred Inc. have been down 30 percent since last month’s terrorist attacks, finance manager Hugh Williams said.
Williams was trying to come up with an idea on how to get customers to the James Island lot and how to help out the local high school when he came up with Bash bin Laden Day.
“We’re going to have Mr. bin Laden or whatever that idiot’s name is all over it and charge $2 to hit it with a sledgehammer,” Williams said.
The lot will donate a junked car to the football team and let people take a whack at it.
The car will debut at James Island’s homecoming game on Nov. 2 before it gets bashed the next day.
Williams said the lot is running radio ads to drum up interest.
“People can take out their frustrations on this guy and help a good cause, too,” Williams said.
Places like Greenville Army Store has seen a marked increase in business since the attacks, owner Jeff Zaglin said.
Some hot sellers include gas masks and U.S. flag patches, but Zaglin said he’s also seen an increase in military-style clothes for the 13-and-younger crowd.
Dave Engelmann is seeing a lot more people in his motorcycle shop, but they aren’t buying his custom machines or leather biker clothes.
It’s the U.S. flag magnets and the pro-American stickers that are flying off the front counter.
At Stivers Lincoln-Mercury in Columbia, anyone with an America-made car can get an oil change for $9.99. The normal price is $24.95
“We’ve effectively tripled our oil change business,” said Stivers. The $9.99 price is a loss, but “it’s our way of trying to help the economy.”
Stivers, whose lot is peppered with U.S. flags and pro-American slogans, never worried for a moment he was going too far to cash in on this wave of patriotism.
“We sell to a very patriotic customer base,” Stivers said. “Our demographic is people over 55. A lot of them served in Vietnam, a lot of them served in Korea and a lot of them served in World War II.”