Think the recession made it tough to attract customers in your town? Imagine what it's been like in Phoenix, where home prices fell 52 percent between 2007 and 2009. Factor in comparable losses to 401(k) account balances and people here didn't just feel like they were getting poorer as the recession wore on; they actually were, by a lot. You'd have to be crazy to open a 280-seat big-ticket steakhouse amidst this perfect storm of bad economic news and expect it to work. But ...

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