Businesses rebound from bad-weather slump

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Teresa Nichols of Huntingburg shopped for a gift for her mother-in-law at Weekend Peddler on Fourth Street in Huntingburg on Saturday. Nichols had been sitting at home and decided to browse the stores on Fourth Street. The holiday shopping season got off to a slow start locally because of inclement weather during the first weekend of December.

By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer

The holiday shopping season so far has been a mixed bag for local businesses.

The intensely bad weather the first weekend in December has affected businesses. But business has gotten much better since then, local owners said.

“It’s really picked up,” Diane Hoppenjans, owner of Tin Lizzie’s Home Decor & Gifts in Ferdinand, said from her store Saturday. “When we had that one really bad day, I was concerned because you don’t know if the following days will make up for it. I am no longer concerned.”

Snowstorms started hitting the county and southern Indiana on Thursday night, Dec. 5, and stayed thick through the weekend. At least 9 inches of snow and sheets of ice coated streets and sidewalks.
Hoppenjans recalled that Friday’s weather. “We stayed open that day, but the snow just kept coming down,” she said. “We just gave it up at 2 p.m., and closed.”

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Erica Cital of Gentryville, left, and her mother, Denise Morgan of Huntingburg, took down a custom order from Teresa Nichols of Huntingburg at Weekend Peddler on Fourth Street in Huntingburg on Saturday. Nichols was shopping for a gift for her mother-in-law.

The store opened the next day, but that and the following few days were a challenge. “With the ice holding on so long, it made the days hard,” Hoppenjans said. “It was almost impossible to clear it.”
But the customers started trickling back in, she said. Now, with Christmas sales and only a short time left before Christmas, business is booming.

“Today it feels like, ”˜Oh, my God, who opened the gates?’ It’s felt like that all week,” Hoppenjans said Saturday. “I love having a lot of people here. Everyone is so festive now. I’ll miss it in January.”

Part of it is because of time, or lack thereof. “People are in their crunch time now. What happens is that people start thinking, ”˜I need something for this person,’ or ”˜I forget to get something for that person.’ They want to make sure to have a gift, just in case someone gives them something; they don’t want to not have anything to give in return.”

Becky Rasche, owner of Around the Corner in Huntingburg, mirrored Hoppenjans’ sentiment Saturday.

“This morning, we’ve had people in here who are frantic,” she said. “They know it’s crunch time. People are getting out now and getting things they’ll need in the next couple of days.”

The bad weather earlier in the month did hurt the store some. “We have a parking lot in the back. When we had the snow and ice, we had to put a lot of salt down,” Rasche said. “It did cut down on our traffic; people weren’t getting out much. Whenever it’s bad weather, that happens.”

Since then, the store has been busy. “We haven’t extended hours or anything, and the traffic is coming in,” Rasche said. “This week has been really good. Last week it was all about decorating, decorating, decorating. Now it’s time to buy those last-minute gifts.”

The Huntingburg Stroll in early November helped as well. “We had such a great stroll. The weather was beautiful.”

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Erica Cital of Gentryville, left, and her mother, Denise Morgan of Huntingburg, took down a custom order from Teresa Nichols of Huntingburg at Weekend Peddler on Fourth Street in Huntingburg on Saturday. Nichols was shopping for a gift for her mother-in-law.

Rasche acknowledged the successful business before and after the bad weather, but is cautious about saying for sure if the store will be able to make up for the sales lost during that spell.

“I’m hoping we will recover from that,” she said. “We gotta make up that in a short time.”

Les Lorey also isn’t so sure if his store, Ben Franklin in Jasper, will fully recover from the early December loss. “That’s hard to make up,” he said Saturday. “We’ve made up half of that.”

He had a heavier investment in that weekend. Jasper’s annual Christmas festival, O’Tannenbaum Days, took place that weekend. But the weather caused organizers to cancel events that Friday and some that Saturday, the two biggest festival days.

“We were geared up,” Lorey said. “Mrs. Claus was supposed to be here (at his store). But we told her not to come.”

The store was open that Friday, but closed at 4 p.m. instead of the usual 8 Slow traffic came through the store that Saturday, some people cautiously trekking out to shop while more opted to stay away.
“Usually when you expect a big crowd and then get very little, it’s hard to fully come back from that loss,” Lorey said.

The store is busier now, but Lorey still can see the difference in the number of customers. But it has nothing to do with the weather. “People are doing a little more local shopping, but many people shop online nowadays,” he said. “The Internet has taken a fraction of our business. People are doing that instead of coming in to the brick-and-mortar buildings.”

Lorey and other business owners are optimistic that their stores will be fine in the end. “We should end up with a good season,” he said.

And now, Mother Nature is working in the business owners’ favor. “Besides that one spell, the weather has been so cooperative,” Hoppenjans said.

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.




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