Holiday shoppers
Holiday shoppers

The Weekly News asked several merchants how they fared in December and what they expect in 2021. Sales varied widely. The Vintage La Conner store the Soroptimists own was hampered by too few volunteers to cover all shifts. Store co-chair Dyann Provenzano reported a strong November but that December sales were the “lowest since reopening.” Store staff are concerned of historically slow January and February traffic. They continue to accept donations by reservations only. 

Mark Epstein’s Go Outside store had a great December and a better than expected November. He noted the local shoppers as well as folks coming from the islands and Bellingham as well as Seattle. He does miss Canadian tourists.

On North First, Fine Feathered Friends “holiday season was good. Customers wore masks and most stayed within the limit of occupancy for the store,” Rosi Jansen emailed. Winter is her slowest time of the year, too. She is not making winter store hours or sales projections “because it depends on how much worse or better the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be.”

Pac Nor Westy, on South First, had outstanding holiday sales. “We had a great time bringing the holiday spirit to La Conner and thank everyone for the amazing support,” emailed owner Rich Murphy, who gave a “a huge thank you to our local postal workers who managed the increased package volume fantastically” from online sales.

Murphy is looking beyond winter to “a more successful Spring season” and will expand hours and staffing at the store and production facility.
Strauss Jewelers in downtown Mount Vernon had a great December with “a lot of local support which was amazing. We ended up ahead for the year,” shared Dan Wilson, with “January shaping up to be a big month.”

Down the block, Habiti’s manager, Aaron Wagner, found that though additional restrictions were enacted to limit the spread of the coronavirus at the start of the holidays, “December sales this year were almost exactly the same as last year’s. It seemed to us that many people realize the benefits small businesses provide to local communities and came out to support us,” he wrote. Habibi offers artwork and artisanal items from Northwest Washington and around the world. While he is pessimistic about the winter, he reports “holiday sales were good enough to sustain us for a couple of months with few sales.”

Ted Furst, majority owner of Nell Thorn, reported “lots of outside diners and takeout orders. The comparatively mild weather definitely helped. We were also very pleased with the response to our Christmas Dinner to-go offer, as well as our New Year’s Eve to go menu. Both were well supported and well received.”

Once Skagit County moves into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s new recovery plan, Nell Thorn will offer indoor dining. Staff will meet customer demand, given the reduced tables available. Furst is concerned that the state’s weekly assessment of the pandemic’s status in the region will be complicated and neither smooth nor consistent for business. As he sums up, “we can expect to be told each Friday whether we’ll be entering a new Phase the following Monday.” Planning, scheduling and ordering on that basis “is a little angst-inducing,” he notes.

The restaurant will continue on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule. Once they can welcome people inside, staff will get more hours.

Furst, probably projecting that more people will get vaccinated, is “praying for a late tulip season.” And people will fill the restaurant’s channelside patio once warm weather returns.

Warm weather, more so this year, is every La Conner business’ friend.