Bertram Chatham has lowered his expectations.
In 2008, he was looking to expand his business. In 2009, he said, his goal is merely "to get through the year."
Chatham's Citrus Heights costume shop, Halloween Express, is a world away from the nation's financial center, yet his experience shows how Main Street is still suffering from one of the scariest moments in America's economic history.
One year ago today marked the beginning of a global financial panic. After a weekend of frantic rescue talks, investment banking giant Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection. All at once, the Dow Jones average fell 504 points, consumer confidence vanished and the bottom seemed to drop out of the economy.
Lehman's failure turned a slow-motion, still-undeclared recession into a full-fledged rout. In the ensuing weeks, amid a bewildering flurry of big-name bank mergers and government bailouts, layoffs soared and 401(k) plans withered. The economy veered close to a depression.
Perhaps most importantly, a credit crunch gripping the economy went from bad to worse, drying up loans. Chatham's line of credit was slashed shortly before the Lehman bankruptcy filing, killing his plans to add to his two-store mini-empire and forcing him to downsize to a single location.
This year, he's shelved any thoughts of expansion. His lone store will open for the season Friday.
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