November 29, 2006.
So much for posting everyday. Couldn't get on because my password kept being rejected. I might was well say this right up front. I'm hopeless with the technology. I think of myself as more of a word guy.
I was inspired to start this blog because of the Bend, Oregon Economy Blog. (See, right there I should have a hyperlink, but I'm damned if I know how to do it.) I love my business, I love Bend, and I am fascinated by what has happened to my hometown.
When I grew up here, the sign at the outskirts of town pretty much said, 'POPULATION 13,500', year after year, with a bit of an increase here and there.
There was no bookstore.
There was one theatre.
No malls, Shakey's Pizza was a big deal with it came to town. The A&W was gone, all that was left was an Artic Circle. There were 3 drugstores downtown, which was where you got your toys and gifts. J.C. Penny was downtown, and the locally owned Wetles Department store. My family would go to Portland every year to get our school clothes.
And I walked 5 miles to school, uphill both ways....
It was nice. But I'm glad the town grew up. I couldn't have the business I have now without a much bigger population. Tomorrow, I'd like to get more into that subject. But for now....
I see alot of neat businesses downtown. They look nice, are filled with nice things, the owners are knowledgable and enthusiastic. And I still think some of them are doomed. Because as nice as the stores, the merchandise, and the people are....there just aren't enough people on a DAY TO DAY basis, who are going to march in and buy their stuff.
Bend just doesn't have the population or the demographics to get as SPECIALIZED as some of these store are.
I used to ask new employees if anything about the store surprised them. Almost all of them said the same thing: "It isn't as busy as I thought it would be."
Yesterday, a cold and snowy Tuesday in November, was a stark reminder of how downtown Bend can be. Because when you open your doors to business, it can be very, very disheartening to not have anybody come in. (It bothers me, even after 26 years of it, even with my knowledge that Christmas is coming and it will all even out in the end.)
So I wonder, as I walk home at night and see empty stores, how those new owners are feeling.
Sure they may have equity money, sure this may be their dream, but nobody -- even the rich -- likes to LOSE money.
I am more or less assured that I'll make money 4 months out of the year, lose money 4 months out of the year, and hopefully break even the other 4 months. That is the nature of a tourist area. Without the added boost of tourism, downtown Bend wouldn't work. But you have to settle into the rythm of it, not get too carried away, be realistic.
I have a huge advantage of a pool of customers from 26 years in the same location. I have regulars, who account for 80% of my sales. It's great that the downtown has revived, that the foot-traffic has increased, but I sure wouldn't want to have to survive on the off chance that a tourist will walk in the door and spend money!
4 days ago