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home : business : business January 17, 2018

1/2/2018 6:32:00 PM
Mild winter OK for local businesses
Sisters’ dearth of winter snow is a mixed blessing. A bit of the white stuff helps the economy. photo by Cody Rheault
+ click to enlarge
Sisters’ dearth of winter snow is a mixed blessing. A bit of the white stuff helps the economy. photo by Cody Rheault

By Cody Rheault

Many local businesses found the holiday season to be good - but not the jolt they were hoping for after a difficult and disappointing ending to the summer. With tourists and visitor traffic, sidewalks and businesses saw a steady flow of customers for the month of December, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The end of the summer left many businesses in the red, and not just from the fire and ash. After a disappointing eclipse experience and the cancellation of the annual Sisters Folk Festival, the coming holiday and winter season held out high hopes for what many looked forward to as an opportunity to get back on their feet.

But response to the holiday season has brought mixed reports. In contrast to last year's heavy snowfall, the mild appearance of winter this year has increased the number of people walking the streets of Sisters. Visitors continued to flood in and found the relatively mild weather an opportunity to shop without the arctic experience of last year. But businesses specializing in the outdoor recreation industry found the absence of a white winter challenging.

Brad Boyd, owner of Eurosports, said the season has been OK, but he has seen less business with the mild winter. Specializing mostly in ski, snowshoeing, and snow sport rentals, he has seen a decline from what last year brought during the heavy snowfall.

"Last year we had snowshoes and skis rented out almost every day," he said. "More snow on the ground is better for us."

Since the opening of Hoodoo, the business has seen more ski rentals. And despite the light winter, Boyd was pleased to see new and repeat customers during Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Sisters Coffee Company found the holiday season to be better than last year, and says the lack of snowfall has helped tremendously. With a 10 percent increase in transactions in December, they have seen a pleasant increase in the flow of customers. Leading up to Christmas, October saw a 14 percent increase and November remained on average. Busy days and long lines are an encouraging sight for them after a slow summer.

With the influx of visitors came much-appreciated visits to craft stores such as Sisters Log Furniture and Home Décor. Owner Chris Wilder reported only a slightly above-average season, but a welcomed improvement over summer.

"It was nice to see foot traffic again," he said. "It's good to see locals bring out-of-town family and friends and show them our town."

Wilder saw many loyal customers shopping, and plenty of tourists, too. One of the biggest sellers were their handmade cutting boards and novelty items.

Brad Smith, owner of Paulina Springs Books in Sisters, said the holiday season was strong for him - and "more even-keeled" than last year's, which was impacted by bouts of severe winter weather.

"It was good," he said. "It represented some growth for us. Strong and steady."

Sidelines such as games and toys are an increasingly large share of business, Smith reported, though Sisters is, he says, "definitely a strong book-buying community."

With or without snowfall, though, it was hard to determine what the season would hold for businesses looking to make up for a difficult summer. But the general consensus is that it wasn't bad - and much better than the months of late August and September.

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