Reporter Tom Holmes has given us a lesson this week in economics. He writes about the risks, hurts and opportunities of the Great Recession. 

And it’s all playing out on Madison Street here in Forest Park.

Barrista Jamie Bartow, a Starbucks refugee, now works for “the Blondes,” Jayne Ertel and Heidi Vance, two entrepreneurs at the new Counter Coffee. Bartow found the cost of college credentials too pricey and the opportunities in his chosen field too slim. The down economy resulted in him spending his productive early 20s slinging café au laits. He’s taking a risk, giving up comfortable health benefits at Starbucks to work for a small business because the work environment is superior.

Meanwhile, the Blondes found themselves saddled with a building they couldn’t rent and had to come up with a business model to use the space they owned. They are also taking a risk in the competitive coffee shop business, with the Seattle competition right across the street. Their risk has created jobs for Bartow and others and a new place to enjoy a cup of high-end coffee in Forest Park.

At the same time, Holmes writes about the brick and mortar businesses of Madison Street who are seeing changes in sales based on technology. The Internet has eaten away profits from brick and mortar stores, yet several shops on Madison actually create more sales online than ever before. These are the opportunities of the new economic reality: Customers can buy vinyl LPs from The Old School Records on Madison Street or gourmet teas from Todd & Holland from 1,000 miles away if they want to, or they can walk to the shops for in-store events. 

The economic cards are being shuffled and Madison Street merchants are, for the most part, keeping on top of the new economy. 

Camaraderie and friendship provided by the Chamber of Commerce helps merchants keep their heads up in these challenging and exciting times.