On Sunday, CyberLANd employee James McKernan told the Orient, "We hit a rough patch, but we're picking ourselves back up. Things are picking up."
By Wednesday, a "Going Out of Business" banner had been draped across the storefront.
Inside, the news was still sinking in for patrons and staff. One spoke of applying for a new job; one complained he'd have nothing to do but sit at home all day; another tried (and failed) to convince his wife to let him buy a couch for $50.
While national newscasters talk about Wall Street and Main Street, Brunswick is most concerned with its own Maine Street. As the town of 21,000 emerges from a winter that was colder and harder than most beyond the weather, the surviving local businesses are greeting spring with cautious optimism.
"I think things may be turning in the right direction," said Scarlet Begonias owner Doug Lavallee. "I'm very optimistic."
While "there's definitely been a decline," Lavallee saw it as nothing groundbreaking. "It's always been a challenge to get through the winter."
Big Top Deli owner Tony Sachs is optimistic, too. Given Big Top's first-quarter performance, it's with good reason.
"My business has not declined," said Sachs. "I think our price point works for people."
Meanwhile, Bowdoin students are certainly conscious of changing times, but generally seem insulated from the carnage. Thanks to the weakened allure of downtown Brunswick relative to the more affordable comforts of campus, the Bowdoin Bubble is stronger than ever.
"Fridays, this used to be like a Bowdoin dining hall," said Sachs of Big Top. Since the beginning of the academic year, "we're not seeing that anymore."
Still, the deli sees strong weekend business from students.
"The only reason we're open here on Sundays is because of Bowdoin. If you guys move, if Barry decides to pick up the campus, we're following."
The story is a little different at Scarlet Begonias, where Bowdoin business has fallen no faster or slower than the rest.
"It's representative of what's going on with the economy," said Lavallee.
Tajuana Fulton '12 said she has increasingly been shopping online or at big retailers like Wal-Mart.
Of local businesses, she said, "They're really small, eclectic shops, but their prices are higher."
Sachs noted that when food costs rise, he has little flexibility in his own pricing at Big Top.
"Prices have gone up more in the past 18 months than in the previous 10 years. Bread alone went up 30 percent in a year, but we didn't raise our prices."
This is due to both a need to keep customers happy and the simple fact that a massive painted menu is an awful hassle to change.
Thanks to the sign, "It would probably cost me $500 to raise prices!" said Sachs. Still, "I have options. We have wiggle room."
Josh Davis, co-founder of The Gelato Fiasco, explained that the gelateria is compensating for the economic decline with smart, frugal behavior. The Fiasco is reaching out to more customers and ensuring they want to come back.
"Last year I took weekly outings to The Gelato Fiasco, and this year that has decreased," said Allie Wilkinson '11, blaming a heavy workload as much as the economy.
Wilkinson, though, seems the exception to the rule. "We're a fairly young company and we've been going through a lot of growth," said Davis. "Our numbers have always been improving since we started," in August 2007—four months before the National Bureau of Economic Research now says the recession began.
Customer behavior has changed noticeably—more people are paying in cash, said Davis, and he hears fewer customers talking about dinner plans. Moods are shakier too, leaving a smaller margin of error in customer service. But tight wallets aren't keeping them away from "a treat that, while not cheap, is affordable."
Still, said Davis, "I see a lot of businesses that I really worry about."
Grand City Variety, Sweet Leaves Tea House, Hattie's Ice Cream Parlor, Maine St. Art, and Book Land are just a few of the names to have fallen off the face of Brunswick recently, but there will be more.
Having just seen CyberLANd join that list, owner Keith Lemay warned, "We won't be the only ones before this is all over."
"I think most people want to put on a good face and say they're doing fine," said Sachs. The reality may be harsher.
Lemay bore it all with a grin and a sad laugh. Asked about the role Bowdoin students played in CyberLANd's business, Lemay said, "Never saw 'em. Not a one."
"It was 40 percent of my revenue when I did my research. Apparently I grossly overestimated," said Lemay. "The college campus, from what I've learned, is entirely self-sufficient. It seems you guys don't need to come off-campus for anything."
"I'm jealous, actually," he said. While appreciative of the administration's efforts at outreach, Lemay was critical of Bowdoin students for not seeing the world around them.
"It happens with all colleges. Colleges think they are the town. But if the town suffers underneath the college, eventually the school will suffer too."
Lemay implored students to try to support local businesses as much as possible. When purchasing a toy for his child recently, Lemay opted for a local merchant when he could have saved five dollars by shopping online.
"I don't want to do that. I want to buy it from him, because he lives in Brunswick. That's why Grand City closed: 'Oh, we'll just go to Wal-Mart.'"
Seniors Michael Krohn and Casey Latter are taking the buy-local mentality to heart.
"I try to support local businesses. I stopped going to Wal-Mart. I've tried not to tighten my spending too much," said Krohn, who admits that having a job for next year allows him to spend when others might be more pressured to save.
"Wal-Mart sucks," added Latter.
Tim Fuderich '10 said, "I'm not nearly as thrifty as I should be. If anything I've been spending more."
The Little Dog Café and the Bohemian Coffee House both said customer loyalty has allowed them to perform better than most. At the latter, patron Tony Soper described how he has been known to walk miles in heavy snow to reach the Bohemian.
"They said 'you walked right past Starbucks!' I said, 'I know! I'd walk 20 miles past a Starbucks to get to the Bohemian Coffee House!'"
Of the area in general, Soper said, "I haven't seen the devastation they predicted."
The devastation could be yet to come as Naval Air Station Brunswick (NASB) completes its shutdown. At 10 p.m. on January 29, 2010, the runways will close, said NASB Director of Public Affairs John James.
Once the second-largest employer in Maine, according to GlobalSecurity.org, the base was a casualty of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission Report (BRAC).
The Pentagon hopes BRAC could save almost $50 billion over 20 years, but the good news rings hollow to a town losing 5,000 jobs.
"It's going to get worse before it gets better," said Sachs. He estimates the base directly accounts for around 10 percent of his business, but notes that the true impact of the Navy's departure is harder to measure.
"If they go buy gelato, and Josh and Bruno have profit, then Josh and Bruno can come here for lunch," he said.
Ever the optimist, Davis remains unfazed by the closing. Past the short-term impact, which he acknowledges will make for a tough transition, Davis even sees an opportunity for more high-paying jobs to move in.
"We've been planning for it," he said, noting the six years of warning. "It doesn't need to be treated like a crisis or anything."
"Brunswick keeps its integrity pretty well," said Lavallee. "I think it'll continue to be exactly what we want it to be."
"I would not want to be anywhere else," said Sachs. "This is my home and I'm gonna stick with it."