Downtown shopping a Sandpoint holiday tradition

By Lizbeth Turley Fausnight
Reader Contributor

I remember the first time my husband and I drove into Sandpoint in 2004. We were so excited about our future new home. Having been drawn in the past to charming towns with streets lined with cute shops and sidewalks filled with kind, smiling faces, we finally had one we could call our own. Still to this day and every day we say, “Can you believe we live here?!” 

That first Christmas, we couldn’t wait to shop downtown, our new home town. The very first store we shopped was ArtWorks. What a fabulous shop it was (and is today)! The clerks of the store are actually the artists. What a great concept! It is rare that artists make enough money to support their own shop, AND create art, so a cooperative concept was brilliant. We enjoyed the stories with the artist and chose several items, knowing they would be loved.

We spent a great deal of time in Handmade Northwest, which again features so many beautiful things all made here in the Northwest. We were quite happy with our treasures. We zig zagged up and down the street, stopped at the Bridge Store and Sharon’s Hallmark for ornaments, cards … and, of course, something moose. We needed some personal items, so we dropped into Larson’s. We absolutely marveled at the fact it was a family department store. What a gem, and who knew such great stores still existed in this era of big box and chain stores? We checked the kiosk at the Panida to see if there was something going on we might be able to see before wrapping up the day with cocktails and dinner at Ivano’s. And even though our budget has gotten a little smaller each year, we were committed to supporting the local shops and being grateful to live in such a beautiful town with such wonderful, friendly hardworking merchants.

When Coldwater Creek closed its doors forever, the atmosphere seemed to change. People were fearful that Sandpoint would be one of those ghost towns with windows boarded up, trash and leaves blowing down the street and nothing left but memories of the way it used to be. A lot did change, but Sandpoint really didn’t, and new stores opened with new friendly faces. 

We ultimately ended up opening one of those shops on First Avenue. We counted our blessings that we were making a dream come true. By the time the first September came around, business dropped off and we were beginning to get nervous about what the next months would bring. Could we survive until the next summer? Somehow, with a lot of beans, soup and thermostats set quite low, we did make it through the winter with a very patient landlord and the grace of God. Summer came again, and so did the tourists, which gave us hope for another year as a First Avenue merchant. Even after three years, we are still here. Nearly every day someone comes in and says, “How long have you been here?” When we answer, they inevitably say, “Oh, I never go downtown. You have such a cute little shop!” 

This year we got involved with the Downtown Business Association to see how we can help, and we found the heart of the town. The group, which is not a funded organization, volunteers their time and money to support nonprofits and civic groups. We live in a community where there are many that need help, so what really impresses me is the individual businesses that always have a heart, finding a family whose needs are great and creating events to help them. Never have I experienced a community with a bigger heart, one that I am proud to be a member of. 

As we go into the holiday season and after a summer or two of construction, we are relieved that mess is over. But I ponder the question and statement: “How long have you been here? I never come downtown.” Why not? It is my hope that people will re-invest in our community businesses as much as possible to keep jobs here and to help the businesses keep up our beautiful small community.

 This year, as you pick up your computer and type in, we all hope you will put it down, put on your coat and scarf, jump in the car and come downtown. While parking can be limited, there is always parking around the block, down by the Sand Creek Trail head, city beach and lots of places right around the corner. Just think, if you have to walk just a little farther you just may find an unexpected treasure you wouldn’t have seen otherwise or bump into an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time.

Join us while we launch our hometown Christmas with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Jones Square on Friday, Nov. 23. We hope to see you in the downtown shops, restaurants and theater this year. We are creating a holiday village that will give everyone a reason to come downtown. Bring the family and experience the joy and heart of Sandpoint while enjoying the carolers, the decorations and more. You are sure to find the perfect affordable gift that is sure to delight. Don’t forget to shop on Small Business Saturday! Through the season come down to enjoy the special events, and see all the themed Christmas trees in the stores. You will be able to vote on your favorite! It may take us a little while to make our holiday decorations as exciting as Coeur d’Alene, but we are working to make it better every year. We would love to get to know you and are certain you will fall in love with Sandpoint all over again. 

We look forward to seeing you. Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and cheers to a prosperous New Year for all!

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