With the economy in a downward spiral this past year and debates swirling as to whether it's getting better or worse, three locally owned businesses in Reynoldsburg are doing what they can to keep customers coming through their doors.

With the economy in a downward spiral this past year and debates swirling as to whether it's getting better or worse, three locally owned businesses in Reynoldsburg are doing what they can to keep customers coming through their doors.

Jo Lynn and Frank Gates have worked at the Reynoldsburg Sunoco service station at 7098 E. Main St. since 1979, and have owned it since 1995.

Jo Lynn runs the in-store operations while Frank is the lead mechanic in the garage, or "service bays."

"We've really ran it by ourselves since 1985 and basically, it was like our own station anyhow, so we decided to buy it in 1995," Jo Lynn Gates said.

She describes the business as a full-service, family-owned neighborhood service station -- one of few left that still offers customers the option of pumping their gas.

Gates said the economy has had an effect on how the couple runs the business.

"Yes, it has affected us," she said. "I've tightened up all the expenses that I can and have cut down on a lot of overtime, which I hate to do." She said she also has considered cutting operating hours, but so far, the business remains open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and Sunday.

Reynoldsburg Sunoco employs 11 people, including the Gateses, with three to four who work part-time. As for cutting employee benefits, it hasn't happened yet but Gates said she is considering doing so.

"Since 1995 we've grown, but you know, the gas has slacked off quite a bit," she said. "The bays are holding their own and store sales are growing a bit."

Reynoldsburg Sunoco uses some advertising to attract new business, but Gates said they usually get a lot of work by word of mouth.

"If you do good work and are nice, the word goes out to other people, you know," she said.

She said gas has dropped in volume quite a bit but the lower the price goes, the more people come back in.

"What it is, is people are driving less, and everybody is out of a job so a lot of them aren't going anywhere any more. Then, of course, you've got the Giant Eagles and Krogers and all of them who are offering discounts. We can't even begin to match their prices," Gates said.

She said her brothers, Tim and Jim Shriner, owners of Broad and James Towing, shut down the gas service portion of their business in January because it was no longer profitable.

As for Reynoldsburg Sunoco, Gates said she and her husband are holding on for now and expect to stay in business.

"Well, we're doing OK, so we're holding on, let's just put it that way," she said.

Buck Adams, owner of the Dairy Queen at 6545 E. Main St., said his business is doing well despite the state of the economy over the past year.

"We're having one of our best years ever. I mean, we're up over last year," Adams said.

The local Dairy Queen has been owned by his family for 51 years, the last 36 by him, Adams said. At one time, he also owned a second Dairy Queen on East Livingston Avenue but sold it in 2007.

He said he isn't doing anything different to keep the doors open and customers coming.

"This last year was the best we've had, and I think it's because a combination of the Livingston Avenue store closing, so we got their business, and we also give good products and good service," Adams said.

"We have always given good service and good products and fix problems if a mistake is made. I think if you try and give good service and get the orders correctly and fix your mistakes, then I don't know why you can't do business."

Likewise, he said, "If we don't make a mistake we don't fix it."

The Dairy Queen is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Adams said he has not had to cut down on operating hours and doesn't plan to.

He said some employee hours have been adjusted but not drastically, mainly because the DQ is a seasonal business. That means he needs to add more employees, up to 30, in the summer.

"In the evenings now between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. it's pretty hard to get on the lot," Adams said.

Gregoire Moulin, owner of the Frame Warehouse at 7502 E. Main St., said the business has been in existence for 50 years and in its current location for the last 25.

Moulin said he bought the 10,000-square-foot business five years ago from his father-in-law, Moe Berliner, who had become sick.

"On the steady flow (of business), I wouldn't say that we are up or down; we're pretty much the status quo from where we were five years ago. We are profitable," Moulin said.

The needs of his customers inspired the invention of a canvas-stretching machine about three years ago, he said.

"A lot of people are printing on canvas and this machine allows people to stretch canvas onto a wooden frame or whatever kind of frame," he said. "What requires somebody 10 to 15 minutes to do normally we can do in 90 seconds, which saves time and money.

"We also do wall dcor for corporations and work with interior designers and we do work in retail. Coming from the agency side of it, we do a lot of artwork for local artists, which was the evolution of the canvas-stretching machine," he said. "We needed to find a way to stretch these prints at a faster rate and we created that product from that."

Moulin, a graphic designer by trade, said he got into retail because he thought it would be fun and wanted to apply what he can do to other projects.

The Frame Warehouse has five full-time employees. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Moulin said he has not had to change any employee hours or benefits despite the economy. Business remains good, even though the Frame Warehouse is not so visible from the street, he said.

"You'd be surprised because when you look at the place, we're in a back alley and not a street front, but people are still coming," he said.

dowen@thisweeknews.com