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Friday, July 12, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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It's something to chew on: state of the economy

Seattle Times technology reporter

At the Still Life cafe in the heart of Fremont, the eclectic bunch that represents the Center of the Universe has delivered its analysis on the state of the economy.

Those present may favor VW buses over BMWs. Some do not drive at all (it's the environment, stupid.) Still, they care about the stock market tumbling, especially when it involves the perception of corporate duplicity and greed.

"God knows, the president and vice president aren't sterling examples of corporate integrity," said cafe owner Ruth Quinet, bedecked in an oversize blue Hawaiian shirt and khaki capri pants, shaking her head disapprovingly. "I'm terribly concerned."

While bargain hunting yesterday spurred a rebound for the Dow Jones industrial average, the broader market remained at levels not seen in five years.

That news seemed to have some bearing yesterday in a place where the breakfast menu does not contain bacon and the open-face sandwich special was corn and tomatillo, not turkey and brown gravy.

"I think it's all funny money — it's not tied to reality at all," said Leon Heberly, 29, eating lunch with his wife and son, his long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, wearing quarter-size earrings he had fashioned from opal.

"But because everyone is on the same economic system, my job might end Monday," Heberly said between bites of food, "and investor confidence may have to do with it."

Karen Bertroch, 56, who lives on a sailboat at Shilshole Bay, said she's most concerned with nonprofits: When investor trust erodes, so do donations.

"Wealth in this country brings generosity," said Bertroch, who stopped outside the cafe, using North 35th Street as her pulpit. "But a crisis economy brings fear, and people don't give."

David Saneholtz, 45, a delivery-truck driver who lives in Fremont, leafed through an alternative newspaper, nibbling on lemon-rosemary bread and an iced chai. He, too, was concerned.

"It's making me rethink the whole concept of stocks and why they were started in the first place," said Saneholtz, who's seen the market eat a couple thousand dollars from his mutual fund and retirement account.

"With globalization, people have become more intelligent investors. I think the stock market will be done away with sometime in the future."

Not everyone, of course, seemed concerned. Gayle Garson, 28, a University of Washington employee, emptied a bowl of chilled tomato soup.

"My income doesn't fluctuate with the stock market," she said. "So it doesn't affect my ability to go out to lunch."

Monica Soto: 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com.

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