Owners say ‘mom-and-pop’ businesses challenging, rewarding

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Roger and Patricia Grah said their family-run business is working out well after years of dreaming about owning a business.

Sharna Johnson

Running a “mom-and-pop” business is rewarding and offers freedom, and some Clovis business owners wouldn’t have it any other way.

Patricia Grah said after more than 50 years of dreaming, it was recovering from an illness that finally pushed her into opening a store.

“I thought if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it,” she said, explaining the illness made her realize she wasn’t getting any younger.

In late May, Grah’s dreams were realized when she opened the doors of Penny Lane on Main Street. But she isn’t doing it alone.

Grah’s husband, Roger Grah, and their sons and daughter-in-law have jumped on board, pitching in with everything from painting to moving furniture and waiting on customers.

“We’re fortunate we can fall back on them,” Patricia Grah said. “I told them they’re inheriting it so they better take care of it.”

She said it is only natural the business become a family affair after her husband and children put up years of her collections of odds and ends and furniture refinishing.

“It was what you’d call an original hoarder,” she said, her husband chiming in to describe rooms in their home filled to the brim and over flowing storage units.

But “he’s never complained,” she said, making him guffaw as she described him as “sweet.”

It is that family bond that can actually strengthen a business, said Fred “Pop” Tate, owner of Pop’s Place on North Main Street.

Tate said his business has been family-run for its full 17 years, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Our family’s pretty close-knit,” he said. “And everybody works hard because they know they’ve got to succeed. If they don’t, they don’t have a job and they don’t have money coming in.”

And it’s that shared mission and the freedom from bosses that he believes has made his business survive over the years.

Tate said when he opened his restaurant he started with a menu of chili and ice cream but now offers a menu of more than 100 items built on what customers liked and wanted to eat.

His wife, son, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters run the business with the help of two employees.

And through working together, he has gotten to be closer to his children and grandchildren, watch them grow and contribute to their work ethic.

“It’s all good, everybody works,” he said. “And they care about it.”

Running a family business can have its challenges, but as long as all the details are covered, a family business can be successful, said Gordon Smith, business specialist for the Small Business Development Center.

It’s advised to consult an accountant and have signed agreements in place, he said, explaining that often there are things a family may not realize about tax and employment laws.

And there are those cases where a couple starts a business with good intentions, but “they had a splitting of the blanket and things start going south,” Smith said.

Families also need to be sure they understand tax laws so they don’t end up short on Social Security benefits when retirement rolls around or they inadvertently cut themselves out of tax credits by not officially putting a relative on the payroll.

“If they cover all the bases they’re eliminating a lot of opportunity for failure. It’s even more important with family (members) beyond ‘Mom’ and ‘Pop,’” he said.

But Clovis does have a strong family-run aspect to its business community, he said.

“There are many successful mom-and-pop businesses around town,” he said.

Tate said if he had one word of advice to give a family starting a new business, it would be to get ready to work.

“There’s a lot of work involved when you’re a mom-and-pop operation,” he said. “They ought to be prepared to work 12 to 14 hours a day.”