Unable to absorb the health-insurance increases and consumer-spending shortfalls the way large stores can, many retailers are too small to cut their staffs. "Right now sales are off because people are doing less discretionary spending," said Bill Smith, the Wisconsin director of a trade association. Some small retailers are surviving only through personal investment -- drawing on savings, mortgaging their homes and using credit cards to stay in business. This article is one in an ongoing series of stories in the Business Journal of Milwaukee following the plight of four small businesses during the recession.

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