Some Baker City merchants saw a boost in sales leading up to Christmas, but the pandemic also continues to affect businesses.
Johna Almond, who owns The Kids Closet, said her sales picked up the third week of December, after being slow the first half of the month.
Prior to the holiday season, Almond said, her sales were about 40% of what they were during 2019.
Almond said she has adjusted to COVID-19 by placing arrows and six-foot spacers in her business to direct customers, who are required to wear face masks.
“I sanitize all the surfaces and I sanitize the floors as well every night,” Almond said. “I don’t do any fitting rooms at the moment.”
She believes Baker City businesses benefited from offering gifts that aren’t readily available elsewhere.
“A lot of the shops have unique gifts and unique items that you probably won’t find online,” Almond said.
At the Squeaky Stirrup, owner Dylan Glock said holiday sales were “all right.”
“As good as a guy can do when nobody has any money or is scared to spend any,” Glock said. “My business is doing OK.”
But not as good as he expected, two and half years after opening in a Broadway Street building that he said had been empty for 13 years.
Glock said the upward trajectory in his sales has stopped during the pandemic.
“I was climbing to where I thought it might kind of peak out, but I’m way less than that because everybody’s scared to spend their money,” he said. “But that’s pretty common with the whole pandemic and everything.”
Glock said he’s disappointed to see how restrictions on businesses are harming the local economy.
“Baker is trying to survive the pandemic, the restaurants are barely making it,” he said. “People took their time, poured their heart into it or opened a restaurant or whatever, and then they just can’t pay bills.”
At Queen City Modern, owner Ann Bryan said prior to the Christmas season that business had “been actually very good.”
“People have been shopping local and supporting local,” Bryan said. “I feel like it’s been pretty busy, it definitely has picked up. I think people are intentionally trying to make a point to support local businesses during this time.”
Bryan, who closed her business in March until early July, said business was relatively brisk during the summer, a trend she attributed mostly to visitors, but sales were sluggish in October through the middle of November.
Bryan, who also has a coffee shop, Mad Matilda’s, said the ban on indoor dining that started Dec. 3 hurt that part of her business.
Like Almond, Bryan believes the eclectic offerings at local shops gives merchants an advantage.
“I think with all the shops in Baker, we all have the same things you can get out of town and even more unique products,” Bryan said. “Personally, I try to source out products that are unique and quality and I also keep my price points reasonable.”
Bryan said she requires customers to wear masks, and she has masks available for those who need one.
“We’ve been sanitizing doorknobs and the computers after people leave,” she said. “So we are trying to take all precautions that we can.”
Josey Gaslin, who owns The Sycamore Tree, said pre-Christmas sales were below normal, but not dramatically so.
“It’s been busy, but not as busy as most years,” Gaslin said.
She has designated one door for entry and one for exit, and set up a station near the entrance with hand sanitizer.
“We are encouraging small group sizes and we are limiting the number of people we can have in the building at once based on state requirements but fortunately we haven’t had to turn anyone away yet because just the way the groups come in, it tends to not be an issue with capacity yet,” Gaslin said. “We also are making sure to disinfect any common areas, the door handles, register stations like the counter and the card processing machines. Employees are washing their hands obviously a lot anyways.”
At Mad Habit Boutique, owner Chelsa Mitchell said an increase in her online sales through Instagram has helped her weather the pandemic.
During the holiday shopping season, Mitchell attributes a buy local campaign with helping her business and other local merchants.
“The push for keeping it local and the efforts of the Baker City Trailhead and the Baker City Downtown, all the work they’ve done to really encourage folks to do as much shopping locally as they can,” Mitchell said. “They have that whole slogan, ‘put your money where your heart is,’ that was a really good keep it local campaign. A lot of people subscribed to that and already do, but understood that of any year, this is the year that they needed to really get out and be really mindful of where they were spending their money.”
Cherie Evans, who owns Random Resales and Riches, a consignment store, said her sales have fluctuated both before and during the holiday season.
“It really hasn’t changed that much for me,” Evans said. “I think just because of the kind of business I am, because I have such a variety, I think, of anything and everything, it just kind of comes and goes.”