My friends, I’ve been thinking about the economy.

Whoa! Don’t I sound like a politician? What I mean is, I’m worried about what happens to small-business owners when customers curb their spending. Specifically, I’m hoping that our local chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, food artisans, wine purveyors, etc.who either own or work for small businessescan keep doing what they do.

These people offer a tremendous addition to our local economy, and that’s not me parroting candidate-speak about Joe the Plumber. They’re the reason we’re placed on “best of” lists all over the place. They’re the reason we eat and drink so well (and healthily) around here.

So, if you’re tightening up and you can’t throw a lot of money their way, still consider throwing a little their way. Can’t swing eating dinner out? Go out and share an appetizer. Can’t afford to stock your cellar with bottles of wine? Consider buying just one. Does the TV financial guru recommend nixing your latte habit? Maybe just cut down, not out.

You see where I’m going with this; continue to support your neighbors, if you can.

Charlie Deal, chef-owner of Jujube (1201 Raleigh Road, Chapel Hill, 960-0555, gets it. He wrote an e-mail to customers last week, introducing a series of “recession wine dinners.”

“The thought is that you can still enjoy an inspired, multi-course wine dinner for much less than usual and, frankly, not much more than you might spend on a normal night out,” he wrote. “Times like these aren’t about denying oneself, they’re about getting creative. Well, creative is what we do.”

The first dinner has already happened, but stay tuned to Jujube’s site for more. And remember that many restaurateurs are having the same thoughts, so check your favorite places too.

And let’s hear it for people who dare to open small businesses while hearing words like “global economic crisis” all around them, such as wine guys Drew Lazarus and Thomas Thorne. The duo, who have a combined 30 years of experience that includes sommelier stints at some of our area’s finest restaurants, opened Hope Valley Bottle Shop (4711 Hope Valley Road, Durham, 403-5200) this fall.

“We figure in bad times, people aren’t necessarily going to drink less, they’re just gonna drink less expensive,” Lazarus says.

They sell wine and beer, and aim to be “a community-driven, neighborhood” store, they say.

Each Saturday, they host a free wine tasting from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Their Web site is under construction, but in the meantime they are sending out weekly e-mails. To receive them, send a note to

Also, Bright Palace (1207-J Kildaire Farm Road, Cary, 468-7188, no Web site yet), a new, all-vegetarian Asian restaurant serving lunch and dinner, opened last month. It’s a welcome addition to the Triangle’s restaurant scene, which, as we noted in our special Dish issue on Feb. 6, could really use a little more selection of meatless meals. One post on, a veggie blog, praised Bright Palace’s extensive offering of close to 30 types of “sushi” rolls, all vegetarian of course.

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