The recession that slowed the New York economy to a crawl continues to take its toll on Cold Spring Road business owners.
Jennifer Messina, who owns Ralph Rotten's Nut Pound on Cold Spring Road, said she's just trying to stay afloat, which she is doing, in part, because of the popular 12-inch chocolate-covered pretzel pizza pie she sells.
The twisted dessert's popularity notwithstanding, Messina's business is still down, despite goodies such as hand-dipped chocolates, jelly beans, balloons and birthday cards.
"I do have a few loyal customers," Messina said, adding that she's selling the idea of offering great customer service and accepting customized orders as reasons to visit her store, even in the midst of the recession.
The owner of Scissors Salon and Day Spa was also gloomy.
"Last year, my business was down 30 percent and it's not getting better," said Joe Hilker, the salon's owner for 26 years. "I have even had to cut back my hairstylists hours and I'm working now more than ever. I work 5 days a week, 12-to-16 hours a day."
Hilker said the economy is forcing his customers to leave less than satisfactory tips.
"My compensation is certainly not what it used to be," he said. "People can't leave big tips when they have just been laid off."
Hilker placed some of the financial squeeze squarely on local and state government, arguing that his taxes shouldn't rise as his profit drops.
"My rent and real estate taxes have gone up, it just doesn't make sense," he said. "It's not as the prices in my salon are going up or I'm making more money."
Martin Haydar, owner of Anthony Jewelers is anxiously waiting for the economy to thrive again.
"I hope by Christmas, things will get better," Haydar said.
A family-owned business for the past 52 years, Haydar said he is adjusting prices to keep customers around.
"People are not spending the way they used to," he said. "They only come in now for weddings, anniversaries and graduations." he said.
Meanwhile, Paula Philippakos of Cardinali Bakery is forced to deal with tough economic times.
"This is the slowest I have ever seen the business in the last 20 years," she said. "Business is bad. The customers don't spend the money like they used to. Instead of buying a dozen rolls, now they buy one."
She also offered this familiar refrain: "I hope things get better soon."
Philippakos may get her wish.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, Long Island's unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent in March, the most recent statistics available. That's a healthy drop from the 7.9 percent unemployment rate in February.