By JOYCE M. ROSENBERGNEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Jerome Cleary was on the verge of taking a trip to Hawaii this month when he started getting emails and phone calls from potential clients. He had to choose between new business for his public relations firm and the white sands of Waikiki. He stayed home and worked. "Things are supposed to die down during the summer. People go out of town or go on vacation. But suddenly people wanted to get started on projects," says Cleary, who is based in Los Angeles. Vacations are on hold for many small business owners this summer as sales show gradual signs of recovery. Many owners don't want to be away when their business is gaining momentum. And those with startups find it's hard to tear themselves away when they're nurturing a very young company. Cleary last took a vacation in 2008. His business was hurt by the recession because clients who were strapped for cash cut their marketing budgets. But this year, things have been picking up. He was supposed to leave on Aug. 5 for 10 days. Then in late July, a string of emails and phone calls began. There was something different about them. Instead of getting the usual requests for information from would-be clients, Cleary was hearing, how soon can we start? "Right now, I don't see any vacation. I'll have to take long walks with my dog, exercise or see movies," he says. Many owners who took a vacation last summer have opted to keep on working this year instead, according to a survey this spring by American Express. Forty-nine percent of the survey's participants said they planned to take at least one full week off during the summer. That was down from 54 percent a year ago, and a high of 67 percent in 2006, the year before the recession began.