News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Staying in business amid pandemic

Two weeks ago, Governor Kate Brown announced the most extensive set of restrictions since the March Stay-at-Home order, in order to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases in Oregon. Some businesses closed — like restaurants, bars, and gyms — and gatherings are limited to no more than six people. Grocery and retail stores are open but capped at 75 percent of normal occupancy.

The statewide “freeze” went into effect for two weeks beginning November 18.

Unlike large retail chains, which see a sales peak over the winter holidays, revenue for businesses in a smaller city like Sisters is highest during the spring and summer. This year, coronavirus shutdowns hit the stores hard, with closures, fewer back-to-school sales, and with events in town canceled, fewer people were out shopping.

This holiday season federal health officials are now encouraging more online shopping, which is not helpful to small businesses like those in Sisters. Locals can help the small Sisters shops and restaurants stay in business by buying their products and services. If you feel the need to stay at home, you can buy their gift cards for your friends and family to use.

Denelle Martin, owner of the home décor shop Open Range said, “I encourage shopping local. Staying local can benefit any consumer out there during this pandemic. I like online shopping at times like anyone else, but there’s something to say about being able to touch and feel what you’re purchasing and there’s no way to get that from an online experience.”

Retailers are keeping safety at the forefront.

“We do our best to keep things safe and clean,” Martin said. “We sanitize everything, including door handles.”

Bedouin and Good Day Café owner Harmony Thomas supports local shopping so much that she purchased 500 reusable shopping bags with the phrase “Shop Local, Eat Local and Play Local.”

She said, “We are promoting local shopping for the holidays. We have been following all CDC guidelines from day one since reopening, and we pay attention to any changes.”

Painted Lady Antiques employee Lori Hamilton tries hard to keep the store extra clean for consumers.

“We wipe down everything and I spray everything with moonshine after hours,” she said. “It doesn’t stain the clothes or upholstery and the CDC says it’s perfectly acceptable because it’s over 100 proof. You can spray everything with it that you normally couldn’t spray.”

Sisters Gallery & Frame Shop co-owner Helen Schmidling told The Nugget that she purchases many things she needs locally.

“I fully believe in shopping local and I support it,” she said. “We have such a variety of shops in town that I don’t know why anyone would have to shop online. I also support mandatory mask wearing and we have hand sanitizer and there is now a limit of eight people that can enter the gallery at any given time. We have a clean, safe space to shop for art.”

The Pony Express employee Kelly Arnett wipes everything down with disinfectant, including copy machines, counters, and computers.

The Pony Express co-owner Wesley Johnston said, “We try to get people in and out as quickly as possible and we have added staff so there isn’t a pile up of people waiting. We thought about shortening our hours but didn’t, so there is less congestion during the holidays. We continually sanitize throughout the day. It seems as time goes by people feel more at ease coming into the store because they know we are taking all the necessary precautions that you can.”

Kara Lappe, owner of Sisters Cascade, and employee Sana Hayes follow the CDC guidelines with constant disinfecting, social distancing, and masks.

Hayes noted, “Shop your local businesses so they are able to stay here to serve you, because if the local retail stores close the consumer loses out. Besides, it’s fun to run into friends when you’re out buying gifts locally. I’ve never run into any friends shopping online.”

Sisters resident Mona Delfino was ordering fudge in the shop and added, “I really enjoy spending my money locally. You are supporting the businesses and they are supporting us. So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win.”

Nearby on Cascade Avenue, Tonna Wilkins, an employee at Wander + NW, said they have hand sanitizer at every table.

“We try hard to keep the environment happy and healthy,” Wilkins said. “We are on top of it. And we keep the door open for air circulation, even when it’s cold outside.”


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