Shopping season looking brighter

Ed and Louise Lewis walk their grandchildren Mia and Dieigo through downtown Poulsbo Monday in search of Christmas gifts. - Brad Camp/For the Herald
Ed and Louise Lewis walk their grandchildren Mia and Dieigo through downtown Poulsbo Monday in search of Christmas gifts.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Herald

POULSBO — Unlike more dire reports from downtown merchants two years ago, shop owners on Poulsbo’s Front Street this year say the holiday season has brought a good amount of shoppers to their doors, and many of them are locals.

“The local people have definitely supported us this year,” said Bad Blanche assistant manager Deanna Malmborg.

Malmborg said the shop has seen a healthy number of patrons, some who are still buying conservatively and others who seem to be feeling more comfortable in their finances. Bad Blanche tried to meet the needs of both, offering sales for those who are watching their spending, she said.

“If they help us, we help them,” she said.

Jewelry, scarves and Seattle-made Gurgle Pots are among the most popular items sold at Bad Blanche this year, but sales have also continued on bigger ticket items, including furniture.

Women’s clothing boutique Eloisa is open for its second set of holidays downtown. This year stocking stuffer items including socks and nail polish have been particularly popular.

“It’s a good season,” said owner Kristin Vogt.

Bernard Adams of Imagine That! said business has remained steady in his bead shop through the holiday months. He hasn’t seen an uptick in customers, or a downfall. Adams said he often sees empty parking spaces along Front Street, signaling a lower volume of foot traffic.

Stacy Patrick, owner of PineCone Gifts, Clever Gifts and Lucky Start Consignment Clothing in Kingston, said business is looking up. Like Malmborg, she said many of her customers are making an effort to shop closer to home.

“Sales are better than last year,” Patrick said. “Many people make it a point to tell us they are only shopping local, and want us to do well and stay in business.”

Across the country, merchants entered the last stretch of the year on an upswing. Total retail sales for the third quarter of 2010 were estimated at $978.7 billion, an increase of 0.8 percent from the second quarter of 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Malmborg suggested the downtown atmosphere, complete with sleigh rides, caroling and Father Christmas, has helped to draw locals to the corridor. This despite added stop signs to the downtown area designed to direct through-traffic to State Route 305.

Poulsbo Antique Mall owner and Historic Downtown Poulsbo President Paul Korsak said he sees Anderson Parkway packed with cars most days. Weekends are especially busy, as families come downtown for holiday events. A packed parking lot isn’t new though; Anderson Parkway is regularly full this time of year.

And like the past few years, downtown is still dotted with a handful of darkened storefronts. At least one more shop is closing by the year’s end, Korsak said.

It’s a sign that, while locals may be downtown, merchants are still looking for things to get better. Many are waiting out the year, hoping next summer will set a new, more financially stable pace, he said.

“This has been a tough year for a lot of people,” Korsak said. “The people who really want to stay down here haven’t had really good sales. They’re making enough for the duration of the year so hopefully the economy will start picking up next year.”

Herald staff writer Tad Sooter contributed to this story.

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