Local retailers get first burst of holiday shopping

December 7, 2005

Hood River experienced a bit of a stutter step during last week’s big snowfall, but the holiday shopping season seems to have hit its stride.

While some local retailers had to close during the flurries, all agree that the post-Thanksgiving buying season is shaping up nicely.

Zeman’s Music on West Cascade Avenue and Discover Bicycles downtown have been selling lots of inventory for the holiday season’s biggest beneficiaries — children.

“Kids’ bikes are really popular this time of year,” said Discover Bicycles owner Julie Wilson. For those who don’t want to lay down the cash for such a large purchase, the shop is stocked with other gifts for the bicycling enthusiast, including training videos, books, maps, tools and winter clothing.

Scott Byrd, store manager for Zeman’s Music, said kids are number one on his customers’ lists, too. “This time of year people are really looking for starter packages for their kids.”

The music store sells packages for electric, acoustic and bass guitars as well as drums. As an example, Byrd said the electric guitar starter package includes the instrument, an amp, gig bag, tuner, picks, strap, cable and a polishing cloth. “Pretty much everything you need for a beginning student to get started playing,” he said. Byrd noted that holiday sheet music, CDs and tapes are also popular this time of year.

Both stores have seen brisk business. “We definitely see an increase in traffic during the month of December. It brings a lot of local people in that purchase gifts for their families,” Wilson said.

“It is definitely our busiest time of year, and I think it should be a good one,” said Byrd.

Red Feather Mercantile downtown, which sells custom home furnishings, clothing, artwork and other items for the home, has noticed a change in holiday business this year: “A greater desire to shop local,” said manager Rheva Wren. “People will come in and tell us, ‘I’m so glad you have this because I didn’t want to go somewhere else.’ ”

Catherine Kelter, owner of The Wine Sellers on State Street, has also noticed an increased interest in local goods.

“Our burgeoning thing right now is wines from the area, from the Gorge,” she said. “People are very interested in supporting the local industry, and people who visit here want to take something home that is Hood River.”

In addition to wines from around the world, The Wine Sellers also carries chocolates, gourmet foods, glassware, napkins and a variety of other wine-related goods.

Kelter said red and sparkling wines are popular this time of year as are the shop’s gift baskets.

Red Feather’s Wren noted that handmade botanical candles have been selling well this season. She also said the staff is happy to help customers put together custom gift baskets.

In addition to an increase in local buyers, Wren said she has noticed an increase in customers from Portland who leave the city to come shop in the Gorge. “I love seeing that.”

Specialty footwear store Shortt Supply, however, is focusing almost exclusively on Gorge-area residents.

“We want you to go outside and enjoy the Gorge 12 months out of the year,” said owner Brian Shortt.

The Heights shop is just beginning to see the start of the holiday shopping season, according to Shortt.

“There are a lot of people coming in and looking. They are seeing what is here on a local basis and making mental notes,” he said.

In addition to footwear, apparel, heart-rate monitors, swimwear and outdoor books, Shortt said socks are hot sellers during the winter.

“You’d be hard pressed not to find a sock in our store that you would enjoy,” he said.

McIsaac’s grocery and hardware store in Parkdale saw its usual rush of business during the week before Thanksgiving as people stocked up on groceries for gatherings with friends and families.

“It is busier than normal before the holidays,” said owner Trent Weseman. Weseman said last week’s snowfall yielded a rush of sales in snow shovels and ice melt.

He said the hardware section gets more business this time of year from women who come in to buy gifts for their spouses and supplies to decorate for the season.

Bella’s Beads and Art Supply up on the Heights and Dream St. on the west side have also seen an up-tick in business from people getting ready for the holidays.

“People are coming in to buy beads to make gifts and to make their Christmas cards,” said Bella’s owner Michelle Bell. Art kits for children also sell well this time of year, she said.

“Since Thanksgiving we have done really well,” said Dream St. owner Ron Fortner.

“Business is up a ways from last year.” The home and garden store has a large inventory of collectible figurines and ornaments that sell well this time of year, including The Willow Tree angels, Ne’qwa Art hand-painted, blown-glass balls and Jim Shore statues.

Fortner, who has been in business for 15 years, senses a general improvement in the local economy.

“I think there are more people employed. I think the economy is better in the Gorge than it has been,” he said.

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