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2009-01-01

Bandera reports good shopping season

By Stephanie Parker and J

Citing images of flushing toilets, television’s talking heads quickly proclaimed this past Christmas retail season as abysmal due to the economy’s downward spiral.

Galloping economy
According to recent interviews, however, local retailers didn’t fair too badly during recent spending sprees. In fact, starting off with the traditional Cowboy Christmas, Bandera merchants fairly galloped through the holiday shopping season - experiencing very little reining in from a lagging economy.

On one end of Main Street, Pamela Lang, owner of Love’s Antiques Mall, described this retail season as “fair.” She added, “It was kinda middle of the road. We didn’t do really well, but we didn’t do badly either. The slowdown for us really started last Christmas. It was flat compared with 2006.”

However, according to mall manager Michael Palmer, Saturday, Dec. 27, turned into red-letter day for the antiques and collectibles business.

“It was better for us than Black Friday,” he said. “People had money in their pockets and they wanted to spend it. We sold steadily all day long. We find we’re selling the same amount of items, but the tickets are smaller.”

‘Thankful & pleased’
Bob Smith at Old West Imports reported that Cowboy Christmas was good - but then business fell flat. “The day after Christmas is usually busy. This year, it was not. Customers used to spend between $40 and $50, but this year it was down to more like $20.”

Other businesses reported better sales, however. Since Shoe Biz was closed last year due to fire damage, owner Peggy Ashmore could not give an accurate comparison. However, she offered, “This has been a very good year. I’ve been very thankful and pleased.”

Branding Iron’s Vickie Adamietz agreed. “Business has been okay. It might have been down just a little, but I think it was pretty much equal to last year.” She noticed customers used more cash than credit.

“I always look to Hunters Weekend to predict the Christmas season and it was slower this year than last,” Adamietz said. “Also, I’ve noticed that people are pricing things more and not purchasing big ticket items.”

More local biz
Reporting business was up at San Martin Creek, Larry McLaughlin said, “Definitely better this year, although perhaps not a lot better.” Like other retailers, his shop drew more local business.

“Instead of driving to San Antonio, people are shopping locally,” he commented, “and people from San Antonio are discovering that they can get a bargain in a small town. They don’t have to look for sales and after Christmas sales. We keep good prices year around.”

Esther Everett, the retail maven of Main Street, concurred. Even after the price of gas started its downward turn, she said her business remained up this year, noting, “A lot of local people said they would rather shop here than drive to San Antonio.”

Gingerbread House’s Margaret Paradee reported sales were down, but added she had expected that with the reopening of Shoe Biz. “Last year was a phenomenal year for me and this year has been down a bit from that, but the year as a total was very good.”

She continued, “I think it’s been a hard year for all the merchants in Bandera - more a roller coaster ride than smooth.” Some of this year’s events did not bring in the business the merchants had hoped, Paradee said.

Remaining optimistic, she added, “Still, the spirit of camaraderie and ‘Merry Christmas’ was up and customers seemed happy and cheerful. It’s been a happy Christmas.”

Busy until Christmas
The Cowboy Store reported good sales, too, a busy Christmas season and “a great” year. An employee said the store had remained busy “right up until Christmas.”

Estimating his business had decreased by about 10 percent, Bo Miller, owner of American Indian Store, said, “That’s what I expected. Even in years with a strong economy, sales go up and down at times.”

Gunslinger owner Melissa Benge remained positively enthusiastic about Christmas sales. “It was great!” she exclaimed. “We had a really strong, clean Christmas sales season. I have no complaints. I can’t express enough appreciation for how customers and the community have supported us.”

Lou Miller, owner of Back in the Saddle, also reported respectable sales. “It was good. Tourists were in town and they wanted to spend their money here. That’s what we want - to keep the money in the community.”

Sales reportedly jumped on the other end of Main Street, too. Susan Burke of ScentChips experienced a great selling season. “We did a fantastic business this year. We were really pleased. About 90 percent of our customers are local and they came through great for us,” she said.

Of course, the true proof of Bandera’s Christmas pudding must wait until the city’s December sales tax revenues are announced - and compared with those collected last year.