News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Adapting to changing business conditions

Did you know that 391 small businesses in Sisters are connected via Alignable? Heck I didn’t know there were even 391 businesses in all of Sisters. Alignable is the international network for small and local entrepreneurs, as compared to the much larger and better known LinkedIn, which caters to a broader range of members, individual and corporate.

Thanks to Alignable, I just learned of a fascinating, below-the-radar business in town — Velocity Sports Equipment — who manufacture skydiving rigs. Who knew? Then there’s Slip Not Northwest, a Sisters business catering to businesses concerned about slip-and-fall liability due to hard-surface floors or bathtub/shower enclosures. Not exactly your everyday, Main Street businesses.

Especially for a rural community, Sisters has above average Iiternet connection speeds with BendBroadband. Most of us are on the 100mps plan. That’s like downloading the entire issue of this week’s Nugget in a second or two, or sending your complete holiday photo album in under five seconds. Businesses can even sign up for 300mps speeds. Burns, by comparison — a town very close in population to Sisters — has top speeds of 35mps.

It’s not every town of our size that is automatically incorporated by the likes of Alignable. Apart from robust internet connectivity, Sisters meets their criteria for active engagement by an educated, involved, and entrepreneurial citizenry. Enter Garth Tosello, owner of Suttle Tea who in describing his business says: “We make artful, organic teas for wellness and joy. Beginning with ethically sourced whole-leaf teas from small-production farmers, we specialize in hand-blended fusions in small batches using only authentic ingredients.”

Suttle Tea is recognizable with a wide front porch and rustic lake-house décor located on East Cascade Avenue two doors from Three Sisters Historical Society and Museum. They serve handcrafted hot and iced tea drinks, bubble tea, and matcha. Garth will gladly tell you all you want to know and more about bubble tea, which by my reckoning is an acquired taste.

They also sell loose-leaf teas, including mate, rooibos, and matcha, as well as equipment for brewing your own tea at home. It is his dedication to his craft and his faithful, appreciative customers along with admiring peers that led to his being recognized as Alignable’s Sisters Businessperson of the Year for 2020/21.

The business was forced to adapt — and some adaptations will help it in the long term. Their online presence has grown, and Suttle Teas’ teas, made in Sisters, are now being enjoyed in homes all across the country as well as being served in a nonprofit café in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Kit Tosello, Garth’s wife, said, “We were honored to be asked to develop an exclusive blend for OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting), which they now use as a thank-you gift option for new supporters.”

Garth takes an “aw, shucks” attitude about the honor but is nonetheless grateful for the recognition, particularly in the year of COVID-19, when he and businesses like his struggled to navigate the complexities of varying operating restrictions.

 

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