By Casey Nolen
KSDK -- If you look past the All-Star Game related improvements in St. Louis, you might just notice some other signs to get excited about. Despite words like "lay-off" and "furlough," or phrases like "wage freeze" and "frozen credit" making their way into our everyday lexicon, some businesses are actually expanding.
"Even in these tough times it seems like people want to not miss a great meal or a great experience," said Nelson Constant, general manager for Ruth's Chris Steak House, which just opened in the renovated Hyatt Hotel downtown, bringing with it 100 new jobs.
Baskin-Robbins is opening up opportunities for new franchises, hoping to grow from six to nearly 50 locations in the St. Louis region.
"Our goal is to bring back St. Louis and other markets where we did have a dominant presence at one time," said Dwayne Greer, a spokesman for the ice cream giant.
Another pair, Jim Emerson and his fiancée, are taking the plunge as restaurant owners in downtown. They opened My Bar and Pizzeria in June.
"It is scary," said Emerson. "We basically have used up our savings in order to open up a new place."
The couple is chasing their dream in an economy that is a nightmare for many, with unemployment hovering at ten percent in St. Louis.
"We've been at it about a year, and it feels like about 50 but we're rolling forward," said David Siteman Garland, an entrepreneur educator and motivator with a start up of his own, the "Rise to the Top" television show and website. He believes a bad economy can be a good for business when it comes to starting or expanding a business.
"There's really I think the most opportunities," Garland said. "There really is no job security anymore, and I think the most secure thing you can do is really turn your passions in to a business or find a business your passionate about and make your mark there."
Greer said it's passion that is filling conference rooms with potential store owners.
"Because people are getting laid off and losing their jobs and they want to control their own future. So, they'll take the buyout or they'll take the money that they have and they'll say, 'I don't want this to happen to me anymore.' So they'll start looking for business ideas and opportunities for themselves."
Of course a depressed market can mean lower initial cost for a new business.
"We were able to get it for a little less than what we were able to two years ago and maybe two years from now," said Emerson.
"We started in New Orleans, so we really go back to that Southern hospitality," Constant said.
He's confident the basics of good business can work in any economy.
"You know it all starts with that phone ringing, letting our guest know that we're here to serve them. Anything and everything that we can do to take care of them," he said, hopeful the customer will be able to do the same for them.