Washington businesses need local and outside customers

By Marshanna Hester

December 17, 2013 Updated Dec 18, 2013 at 12:30 PM CDT

WASHINGTON, Ill. -- Katy Warren's daughter is back around family at Tenderheart Child Care.

The business closed for more than two weeks to repair damage from the tornado.

But, it has been a slow return to normal as many families are displaced.

"Our income is our parent fees. Our income is our state subsidy program," said Nancy Bremer, owner. "I've lost both, some of both."

Bremer said enrollment is down about 15 children, and without a sign out front, those driving by don't even know she exists.

She understands the hardship, but business is not good.

"Good is breaking even," she said. "I'm not."

"We're struggling a little bit," said Washington Mayor Gary Manier. "We lost the three days for sure."

Manier said several small businesses are losing dollars this holiday, which could make the coming months even more difficult.

Some business owners say out of town customers are coming to the square because it's known as the heart of Washington.

But, they believe local shops and eateries away from the area may not be doing so well.

"People really aren't buying flowers right now. They're trying to re-group and that type of thing," said Kris Hasten, owner of Sentimental Journey. "As far as coffee shops, a lot of the people that meet at the coffee shops had to move out of town."

The Washington Chamber started a campaign to attract outside customers, but residents like Warren have their own message.

"It's okay to come in and shop. You're not a gawker," she said. "No one will be mad at you for coming into Washington. We want you to come in."

Come in and help Washington come back strong.