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A season for smiling

Ashland businesses report solid holiday sales, but owners must get creative to attract January customers
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Bloomsbury Books is among Ashland businesses that reported a busy holiday and are relying on special events to attract customers during the off-season. Daily Tidings file photo
 Posted: 2:00 AM January 05, 2013

Ashland businesses are reporting solid holiday sales even as they work to avoid the January doldrums with creative events.

The Ashland Chamber of Commerce saw increased sales of its special Destination Ashland gift certificates during the holidays, and also ramped up the number of businesses participating in the promotional effort, said Katharine Flanagan, director of chamber marketing and its Visitor and Convention Bureau.

At Northwest Nature Shop on Oak Street, customers were drawn in by an open house after Thanksgiving and people continued to visit the store through the holidays, said Marie Uhtoff, shop manager.

"We had a strong holiday season. We're always appreciative of efforts to buy local," she said.

Uhtoff said Northwest Nature Shop is attracting people throughout the winter by hosting classes on such topics as how to feed birds.

Bird-watching enthusiasts also regularly meet at the shop and then head out to destinations near and far, ranging from the Bear Creek Greenway to Klamath Falls, a hot-spot for overwintering and migrating birds.

Sheila Burns, co-owner of Bloomsbury Books downtown, said Thanksgiving weekend shopping was down compared to past years, but Christmas Eve was as busy as ever.

"At 4 o'clock, we were packed with men getting last-minute gifts," she said.

For January, publishers are helping out bookstores by releasing a wave of major books in paperback version. There also will be a number of new hardcover releases, Burns said.

Burns said she is looking forward to community events that will draw in visitors, such as the Ashland Independent Film Festival, which runs April 4-8.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is closed for its annual winter break, will re-open on Feb. 15, while the Oregon Chocolate Festival is scheduled for March 1-3.

At FlowerTyme on the downtown Plaza, owner Lou Ann David is continuing to attract customers this month with a sale on ornaments that will last until Jan. 12. She said Valentine's Day traditionally yields some of her best sales days.

She said December and November together rivaled some of her best years. The gift and flower shop has been in business for three decades.

Local walk-in traffic generally drops in January, but people still call FlowerTyme from across the country to order flowers to be delivered to locals, David said.

"It's birthdays, anniversaries, weddings. "… Everything still happens in the winter, even though it feels like people want to hibernate," she said.

Customers are also sending flowers to people at work, or to people suffering from colds or the flu, she said.

David said people appreciate the dose of color and the fresh scent of flowers in the winter.

"We're already seeing spring flowers coming in. It's a real morale booster when people see the tulips and the hyacinths," she said.

Sandi Globus, owner of Fabric of Vision on East Main Street, said her quilt, fabric and sewing store sees a drop in business before the holidays.

People usually have made everything they plan to make, and are busy with other holiday chores, such as wrapping gifts, she said.

But January sees a surge in sales.

Globus is capitalizing on that trend by having a sale through Jan. 25.

"I find that most stores have sales at the end of the year. But in January, people want to make things," she said. "They make New Year's resolutions, such as, 'I want to make all my own clothes,' or 'I want to make all my own gifts.' "

Globus is also taking advantage of the fact that many Ashland restaurants see a dip in customers in the winter.

She has teamed with venues such as Liquid Assets Wine Bar downtown to hold "Swig and Stitch" events. Customers make reservations via Fabric of Vision, then get to enjoy an evening of sipping wine while watching a sewing demonstration.

The next "Swig and Stitch" planned in Ashland will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 15 at Liquid Assets, 96 N. Main St.

"It's built up a following. It helps both of us," Globus said. "Networking is incredibly important in a town like this."

At Dragonfly downtown, Assistant General Manager Ethan Titus said the restaurant had one of its better years in 2012 and is continuing to stay busy in January.

On Jan. 3, 2012, the restaurant had $500 in sales, compared to $2,300 in sales on Jan. 3 of this year, Titus said.

Speaking during a break between the lunch and dinner crowds, Titus credited food specials, customer service and word of mouth for the strong performance through the holidays and into January.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.


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