News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Helping businesses through tough times

Despite several weeks of being shut down or having business severely curtailed, despite seeing major events cancelled, Sisters shops and restaurants are hanging in there.

Significant tourist traffic, while it brings concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19, brings a welcome infusion of business activity to the downtown core of town.

But those businesses are also facing a long haul. The coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictions on gatherings look to persist into the fall and winter, a prospect that will continue to test the resilience of local shop-owners and restaurateurs.

Last Week, Cork Cellars Wine Bar & Bistro announced a GoFundMe campaign to help them weather the storm.

Jeannie Gilgenberg Buck, who owns and operates Cork Cellars with her husband, Tom Buck, said it felt strange to ask for donations for the business — but with summer business constrained and the prospect of a long winter ahead, it was necessary.

“I guess my biggest concern is how we’re going to get through the winter,” Buck said.

The small wine bar on the corner of Cascade Avenue and Pine Street, had to reduce their indoor seating from 14 tables to eight or nine to meet state guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Unlike some other restaurants in town, their potential for outdoor seating is limited – so there’s a pretty tight cap on the amount of business they are able to do. During the indoor season, Cork Cellars offers wine tastings and live music, which brings a crowd. Those activities may not be feasible this winter.

“That alone makes me nervous,” she said.

Buck said they were encouraged by patrons to give the crowdfunding campaign a try, with Paulina Springs Books’ successful effort last spring serving as an example.

“It was hard to ask,” Buck said. “But people do want to help.”

A Sisters-area man and his wife are conducting a quiet campaign to encourage just such direct assistance.

The local man, who asked not to be identified due to the nature of his effort, has been providing direct cash donations to local restaurants.

“I just couldn’t sit by and look at what was happening with COVID and the local businesses and not do something,” he said. “My heart goes out to them (local business owners). They’re trying as hard as they can.”

Patronizing local businesses and restaurants is obviously important, but the local giver asserts that, in these extraordinary times, the extraordinary step of direct cash donation is necessary.

“You don’t normally just give to a restaurant or a clothing store or whoever it is,” the man said. “But this is a time when you might have to do that if we want Sisters to be the spunky place that it is.”

The giver said that he and his wife chose to donate to restaurants because they feel a particular connection to the dining community here. But he encourages others to choose a business or a type of business and do something similar to help keep Sisters vital.

“All businesses are important,” he said. “Pick a few businesses in Sisters that are important to you and help them out.”

He believes that if enough local people with the means to do so regularly contribute to businesses of their choice, Sisters can weather the economic storm.

“One of the things that impresses me about Sisters — and I get this from your newspaper — is the community spirit,” the man said. “It’s a very encouraging thing and it’s way more than I would have expected. It warms my heart.”

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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