Nova Freels, right, and Maria Boone fill orders and makes arrangements at Freel’s San Pedro flower shop, Fleur de Lys.
Nova Freels, right, and Maria Boone fill orders and makes arrangements at Freel's San Pedro flower shop, Fleur de Lys. (Scott Varley / Staff Photographer)

The flowers Nova Freels arranges into colorful bouquets at her San Pedro shop belie the dark thoughts she and her husband entertained about the nation falling off the fiscal cliff.

"It was a little scary," said Freels, who owns Fleur De Lys Artistry In Flowers.

The federal budget deal reached Tuesday night to avert automatic, across-the-board tax increases and budget cuts - known as the fiscal cliff - was welcomed by small-business owners regionwide.

However, these entrepreneurs generally expressed a mix of relief and caution as the stopgap measure averts a dramatic hit to the economy while keeping many budget issues up in the air.

"It always is about consumers cutting back," Freels said of the latest threat to the economy. "Every time someone wants to send a thank-you and calls me, that's money out of their pocket. The more taxes we pay, the less money we have for luxuries."

A survey by the Small Business Majority, a national advocacy group, found that most small-business owners were concerned leading up to the fiscal cliff negotiations. The federal government generally defines small businesses as those employing fewer than 500 people.

"The small-business community and the nation breathed a sigh of relief today as lawmakers reached a bipartisan 11th-hour deal to avert the 'fiscal cliff,' while taking significant steps to reduce our budget deficit," said John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the Small Business Majority, in a statement.


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The budget deal helped relieve a great deal of the uncertainty created by the spending cuts and tax increases called for in the fiscal cliff, said Nancy Hoffman, CEO of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"I'm definitely relieved there was a deal," Hoffman said. "With business in general, when everything is in limbo, the economy doesn't move. And whether people like it or not, once there is a decision made, people act."

She noted that the uncertainty of the presidential election - which made businesses skittish about making big decisions - was followed immediately by the countdown to the fiscal cliff.

And business-stifling uncertainty remains, especially since the deal between Congress and President Barack Obama delayed, rather than resolved, issues involving the federal debt and spending, she said.

"I don't think this is over," Hoffman continued. "I think it's another Band-Aid. I think that they just keep putting Band-Aids, and they don't look at what will happen in two years."

Elizabeth Yang, who owns a Pasadena indoor children's play area called Magical Playground, welcomed news of the fiscal cliff deal, which raised income taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

"I'm all for the rich paying more taxes," said Yang, whose clientele is a mix of middle-class families as well as people from other income levels.

"We have some low-income people, and we have a lot of middle-class people," Yang said. "We also have some upper-class people, but they don't come themselves. They send their nannies."

Steve Kuljis, who owns City Industrial Tool & Die in Harbor City, questioned the significance of the fiscal cliff deal.

Having been battered over the years by the nation's shrinking manufacturing sector, Kuljis, who makes and repairs metal parts for various industries, conceded thathe felt jaded about the government's handling of the economy.

"I just don't think it was that big of an accomplishment," Kuljis said of the federal budget deal. "They had us scared - This is going to happen if that doesn't happen - like the Mayan calendar, end-of-the-world thing. It just seems like every time I turn around there's something else that's going to happen like it's the end of the world."

Marilyn Cremer, a San Bernardino interior designer, said she was relieved by the fiscal cliff deal, but wanted to get past it.

"We're tired of hearing that term," said Cremer, who owns Designs By Marilyn. "I'm just looking forward to 2013 and hoping we have some business."

muhammed.el-hasan@dailybreeze.com

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