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Thursday April 17th 2014

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Outtakes 3/3/11

KEEPING DREAMS ALIVE “I am about to lose my dream, my spiritual mission, my passion and my many loyal and dear friends” is how Jerry Mistretta, owner of Jerry’s Cajun Cafe and Market on Ninth Avenue, began his plea to his customers, neighbors and fellow Pensacolians in emails that were passed from friend to friend on Facebook and throughout the Web.

His restaurant has been a fixture near Pensacola State College for over 17 years, beginning in a small strip center on the corner of Creighton Road and Ninth Avenue in a space so small that it could only fit a dozen tables or so. Jerry’s Cajun Café moved in 1998 to new digs closer to the community college, and his business soared–then came the hurricanes, a fire that shut him down for several months, recession and the BP oil disaster.

Mistretta could have survived one of these setbacks, but the succession of all four put him on the verge of closing his doors and walking away from his dream. His call for help appears to have worked, but I’m sure it’s still touch-and-go for the restaurant. Like most businesses, Jerry’s Cajun Café will need a good spring and summer to survive.

Behind the headlines of the slow BP claims process and the weak economic recovery, real people and businesses are on the brink of collapse. There is no credit available. The BP claims process is moving at a snail’s pace. And the lack of money is rippling through the retail and restaurant industries and leaving many grasping for any lifeline to survive.

Dozens of businesses could have written the same email as Mistretta. We all need each other to survive these tough economic times. Dollars spent with locally-owned businesses stay in this community. The mega corporations sweep their bank accounts nightly to their out-of-state headquarters.

Pensacola is a line item on a big corporation’s financial report. The corporate beast wants to suck as much out of this place as possible and do it as quickly as possible. When we don’t feed the beast properly, the beast pulls out of the market. Local businesses are here for the long haul, despite the ups and downs of the local economy.

The Independent News is keenly aware of this because we are a local business. We feel the pains and gains of the local economy more than the nationally-owned media because we depend on you and the locally-owned shops, restaurants and other businesses. We aren’t a “media solution” like our daily newspaper proudly campaigns in its house ads.

This little paper with its dedicated staff and band of freelancers has been at the heart of all the major issues of the past decade, fighting to make our community better. “Our community”–those are the key words. Our passion and compassion can be summed up in those two words.

March is the month that the IN focuses on and celebrates our locally-owned businesses. On March 24, the paper will publish its annual Stay Local issue, in which we highlight the businesses that make this community unique and offer alternatives to the “Big Box” stores. If you’re a locally-owned business, we hope you will advertise in that issue. For other readers, we hope it will become a resource for keeping our dollars local.

Like Jerry Mistretta, all of us small business owners have dreams. We can help each other realize them.

rick@inweekly.net