People lined up to get into the Tavern earlier this month. They had beautiful weather while having to wait outside. -Photo by Ken Stern
People lined up to get into the Tavern earlier this month. They had beautiful weather while having to wait outside. -Photo by Ken Stern

Merchants and restaurateurs throughout La Conner share Julie Lennartz‘s “2021 Tulip Season has been spectacular!” assessment of business in town this month. The co-owner of La Conner Pub & Eatery reported “the week and weekend of April 12 was record breaking with the number of people we saw. Our staff worked hard, we ordered for an army and started running out of our delicious seafood late Sunday afternoon.” Other local eateries report similar experiences during April.

Santo Coyote’s Cristal Perkins shared they “doubled our March Sales from 2019 and so far April has been the busiest month since our opening in 2016.” She, too has been overwhelmed, writing in an email “we’ve had to close early a number of days because we just simply ran out of food!” Her family hired six employees for April, but had not projected that level of customer demand.

Pat Ball, owner of The Slider Café, also has “seen our best days ever in business this tulip season.” The large increase in sales surprised him, also. He rehired employees and brought on new staff, noting that customers “came in fast and furious.” 

La Conner Coffee Company owner Pam Field made several “‘emergency’ runs into Burlington because I was on the verge of running out of ice cream or milk or other necessary supplies. By and large, customers have been very gracious about standing in long lines for coffee or ice cream.” She shares, with other businesses, the need for staff and limited interest of people wanting that work.

Ted Furst, Nell Thorn’s majority owner, reported “extremely strong sales for the last couple of weeks.” His analysis: “It’s a combination of 13 months of pent-up demand, along with a beautiful stretch of weather, tulip season and La Conner’s growing reputation in the Seattle area as a sweet day trip to get out of the city.” His analogy, a year after the pandemic and following a chilly spring, is riding an escalator “going twice as fast as usual – a little wobbly at first, but then very steady. We’re hoping, of course, that the top of the escalator is sometime in October!” He also gave a nod to area residents for “the level of local support which, after sustaining us through the shutdowns, has continued unabated.”

Chuck Jackson at Skagit Crest Vineyard & Winery also hopes the momentum will carry into summer.

Perkins, like her peers, is optimistic. Santo Coyote is planning a Cinco de Mayo opening for the patio they are finishing behind their building.

April’s demands broke her staff in, Lennartz said. They are now “geared up for summer! Let’s get back to no restrictions, full capacity seating and nice enjoyable people all around.” 

Merchants have had a similar high sales month. “Vintage La Conner has reopened to a flood of gracious welcoming from locals and visitors alike” said La Conner Soroptimists chapter president Jan Paul. “We immediately enjoyed more visitors in town and to our store than we have seen in recent years.”

Museum of Northwest Art Director Joanna Sikes also saw traffic increase. “It was wonderful to share the art of Max Benjamin, an internationally known local painter to our many visitors” she wrote in an email. “Shoppers were delighted to find artwork, special books and jewelry unique to the Museum Store. Our admission is always free!”

Caravan Gallery owner Linda Banaszak praised area farmers, the source of this good fortune. “We are so lucky to live in this beautiful valley with its many incredible natural resources. The hard working, intelligent family farms provide us a tremendous boost for our local economy. These growers should be widely recognized and be thanked by the town, local residents and visitors for allowing us to share from their spring harvest. 

She found challenges, not from too many customers but from the pandemic and inconsistency, that “irregular merchant business hours have confused our visitors to town who expect all shops and restaurants to be open regular hours.” She noted “the pandemic’s impact on supplies and delay of product shipments both internationally and domestic. For example, my international shipments have been delayed by months. Solving the supply and demand issues during COVID-19 reaches far beyond our borders.”

Janna Gage, majority owner of Seaport Books, also appreciates “the loyalty of local customers and a renewed appreciation for real books and independent bookstores.”

While Mark Carrier, owner of the Wood Merchant, did not have problems, he echoed what most everyone experienced: “Plenty of customers and good level of sales.”