Businesses hope sales continue this week

by: Photo By Holly M. Gill - Christmas lights brighten the downtown area on Fifth Street just after dusk on a recent evening.

   Shoppers who are spending at least part of their Christmas budget in town are spreading yuletide cheer to local businesses this season.
   "I think we're certainly exceeding last year's sales," said Doris Boyd, manager of the Madras Bi-Mart. "People are staying around town."
   Last year, the business community was hard hit by the closure of two longtime businesses -- Hatfield's Department Store, and Satterlee's Jewelry. With less selection locally, a lot of people spent their money in Bend and Redmond. This year, Factory 2-U closed after the retail chain was sold.
   World of Treasures, which carries antiques, collectibles and gifts, and Second Time Around, a new and used furniture and household items store, opened in the former Hatfield's building in November of 2003. The Satterlee's and Factory 2-U buildings still await new tenants.
   "I think patriotism is coming back in vogue -- supporting your local businesses," said Parrish Van Wert, director of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. "They're sprucing up their shops and trying to win back consumers."
   Van Wert said that he often hears consumers complain that there is little variety available locally, but he asks them to consider whether or not they go out of their way to shop here, so that local shops can expand, and new shops can come in.
   "It will start and stop with the consumer," commented Van Wert.
   As an example, Van Wert said that a person might have a shopping list with 10 items, but if they can't get two of the items locally, they go elsewhere to shop for the entire list.
   "Your local people can fill most of your list," he said, "but, if we don't support our local businesses, they're not going to be in a position to support us."
   Shawn Wallace, owner of World of Treasures, said that his business is down this year. "It's the slowest we've had in 11 years at either place," Wallace said, also referring to his Redmond antique business. "Last year, we got 100 to 150 people a day in foot traffic. This year, we've been running an average of 20 in a day."
   Wallace opened the store for several hours on Sunday, and was surprised to have the busiest day he's had in two months. He's hopeful that business will pick up in the last days before Christmas.
   "We will be open late for the last few days," Wallace said, noting that he has expanded inventory this year. "If there's people (shopping), I'll stay."
   Most local businesses contacted reported that business is at least as good, if not better than last year.
   "It looks like we're pretty close to what we were last year on sales," said Christy Abbe, one of the owners of The Outpost. "What we've noticed is we're less busy on weekends."
   The Outpost sells a wide variety of items, including household supplies, toys, gifts, and clothing. "We've noticed more people looking for clothing since Factory 2-U closed," she said.
   This fall, John and Jennifer Hatfield opened a small clothing boutique in the back room of Matt and Stacie Zachary's Petals-N-Poseys, and the Zacharys expanded their offerings of jewelry and accessories.
   "It's been an amazing season with Hatfield's Boutique in back," said Stacie Zachary, adding that they have also experienced growth in sales of jewelry, accessories, flowers, and custom home-decor silks.
   "Since Thanksgiving, the thing I've noticed is a lot more people shopping in town, and we've had a lot more men," Zachary said.
   Garden Gate, which opened in June of 2003, is also having a busy season. Owner Tammy Fivecoat said that more people are aware of her shop, across from World of Treasures on Fifth Street.
   "This year, we're busy with gifts and flowers," she said. "People who know it's here come in."
   Reynoso Jewelry and Dollar Tree were among other businesses reporting that they have had a busy holiday season.
   "It has been really good," said Blanca Reynoso of Reynoso Jewelry, which sells clothing, shoes, toys, makeup, and Korean blankets, in addition to jewelry.
   Reynoso said that with people buying locally and spending more, sales are probably up 15 percent this year over last year.
   Popular items include Lugs shoes, Korean blankets, and heart-shaped jewelry. "A lot of people are asking for hearts. Maybe more people are falling in love this year," she said.
   Dollar Tree Manager Paul Stockam said that the store has been busy since it opened in March of 2003, but this season is busier than last year's Christmas season.
   "Right now, between 600 and 700 people a day," are stopping in to buy gifts and gift wrap, decorations, and stocking stuffers, he pointed out.
   Jeanne Mendazona, who owns Thrifty Drug with her husband Michael, and Ag West Manager Gary Dyrdahl both report steady sales this year.
   Mendazona said that this year, Thrifty has more gifts to choose from, but sales have been about the same as last year.
   Pendleton blankets and accessories, and jewelry have sold well this year, she said, adding that "we're hoping for a big rush" before Christmas.
   Agricultural equipment was the hot ticket last year at Ag West, according to Dyrdahl, but this year has been mediocre. Instead, other items have produced regular sales.
   "Clothing and hardware has been strong and steady," he said. "It seems like the general public has more disposable income this year."
   Top sellers at Ag West this season include insulated coveralls, tractors, and jewelry. "Montana silver is always big at Christmas time," he said.
   Local businesses expect to be open regular hours on Christmas Eve, but nearly all will be closed on Christmas.
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