Wildcrafting instructor, family bike shops say: The economy's great!


"It's the economy," John Kallas was telling a friend.

I was browsing a street fair here in Portland when I saw the booth of Kallas, a local wildcrafting expert. It was hard not for a sustainable food geek like me to get excited, what with the jars of wild edibles ranging from black walnuts to Indian potatoes to assorted parts of the cattail plant. He was talking to a friend in between my questions ("how do you dry walnuts?" "Is lamb's quarters a native plant?") about the state of his business. Evidently, it was good. In a typical year, with Kallas' income from Wild Food Adventures' nature walks, workshops and expeditions, he barely broke even (and it was a good thing much of his food was gathered wild). This year? He'd already exceeded last year's income. The bad economy is very good for him.

It's a great time to be in business if you're helping people eat more economically, to get "off the grid" a bit. Another local food "hacker," Monique Dupre, has her Sustainable Living on a Budget workshop series sold out weeks in advance and has raised her prices due to demand.

On the other side of the food and fuel equation, local family bike supplier Clever Cycles is closed for weeks. The reason? The year-old bicycle shop had sold so many of its Bakfiets cargo bikes, Xtracycle cargo kits, BoBike children's bike seats and other solutions for family biking that it didn't have anything to offer the customers clamoring to park their minivans and SUVs and switch to bike transportation.

Now I'm making a mental list of businesses booming in this economy (and I don't mean Exxon!). What companies in your local area are doing fabulous thanks to the downturn?