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'Nothing Else To Do'

Martha Downey works at the Dayton Nut & Candy Company. David Greene/NPR hide caption

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David Greene/NPR

'Nothing Else To Do'

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Tape: Martha Downey knows what happened to the customers.

This road trip is helping me understand recessionary ripples.

Think about General Motors. One of its many painful decisions involved closing an SUV plant just outside Dayton, Ohio. Gone were a few thousand jobs.

But what about the nearby Dayton Nut & Candy Company, a local business that's been on Main Street in Dayton since 1923? Longtime employee Martha Downey noticed GM workers weren't coming in this holiday season to buy their Christmas nut tins.

The Majestic Yacht Company builds houseboats, if people order them. David Greene/NPR hide caption

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David Greene/NPR

'Nothing Else To Do'

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Tape: Bill Padgett, owner of Majestic Yacht, sees a chain of trouble.

From Ohio, I've now made my way into southeast Kentucky. This is serious houseboat country, where summertime tourists crowd the lakes.

Nationwide, boat sales are down — people are deciding not to plunk down cash for what some consider a luxury item. Their decisions are costly. Meet Bill Padgett, one of three owners of Majestic Yacht Inc. in tiny Columbia, Kentucky. They haven't taken a single order for a new houseboat this year, compared to 12 in 2008. Majestic had to lay off 27 people — the entire workforce. Bill and the two other owners are doing a few projects themselves, to keep the company afloat. But if Majestic isn't building boats, that means it's also not buying what goes into new boats.

Faye Womack hopes to work at Majestic Yacht Inc. again. David Greene/NPR hide caption

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David Greene/NPR

'Nothing Else To Do'

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Tape: Faye Womack says everyone waited for business to turn around.

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Meanwhile, 27 more people are newly unemployed around Columbia. One former Majestic worker, Faye Womack, checks back every few days to see if the company has gotten any new orders in. She's collecting unemployment and spending much of her days playing pool on the Internet.