Local business weather the COVID storm

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

As with the nation at large, Sandpoint businesses did a thriving trade as the shopping season started in earnest after Thanksgiving 2020 — all that despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far killed more than 270,000 Americans, with more than 150,000 positive cases measured daily across the country.

Dauntless, holiday shoppers came out in droves, altering their spending habits as they poured historic amounts of cash online. CNBC reported Black Friday purchases topped $62 billion nationwide, with nearly $17 billion spent online — the former figure a 2.1% increase over last year and the latter a whopping 48.3% bump year over year, even as in-store purchases fell 8.6% from 2019, accounting for $45.46 billion.

The Alpine Shop on Church Street in Sandpoint. Photo courtesy Sandpoint Shopping District Instagram.

Closer to home, Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kate McAlister, who also serves as a member of the Sandpoint City Council, went out “chambering,” stopping into as many local businesses as possible after the big post-holiday shopping day.

“I visited with just about all the businesses on First, Second and some of the others in the area,” she said. “I did go to Eichardt’s and they said they were as busy as they always are on the weekends, MickDuffs was busy as well.

“As for the retail stores, without exception I heard the weekend was better than the same time last year. Since Saturday [Nov. 28] was Shop Small Saturday, I was happy to hear they all did so well,” she added. “My hope is, it will continue through the holidays and beyond. Some even said November has been the best November they have ever had.”

Darian Kinney, who with her husband, Matt, have owned and operated the downtown jewelry shop Sunshine Goldmine for six and a half years, said the business had a “record day” on Black Friday, comprised of retail but mostly repairs and custom work — the latter being much safer for COVID-19 transmission.

“As a business owner I appreciate people going out, braving it, and shopping local,” Kinney said. “As a consumer, I realize it can be a very difficult decision.”

Russ Sabin, owner of the Tervan Tavern, said his bar has been busy all year — aided in part by out-of-town visitors.

“We’ve managed to survive this thing really well,” he said.

McAlister emphasized that visitors and shoppers alike should continue to wear masks, as businesses perch precariously on the “blade of the sword,” as she put it at the Dec. 2 meeting of the Sandpoint City Council. 

“These are not big box stores, these are small business owners who work hard to make a living and really can’t afford to shut down for any length of time,” she said. “If they do, it might be for good. We have been very lucky our stores have managed to not only stay open, but thrive, during this crazy time.

“We have an amazing community and we work hard to help one another succeed,” McAlister added, “we don’t know any other way to be.”

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