Christmas sales look merry and bright so far in downtown Durango despite the unseasonably warm weather or maybe even because of it.
Downtown Durango shop owners and managers’ opinions varied on snow, sun or even how much snow is just right for making registers ring with holiday cheer.
“We’ve been here eight years, and this was the best Noel Night in terms of volume,” said Tim Kapustka, co-owner of Studio & Gallery, 1027 Main Ave. He attributes the strong sales to balmy weather during Noel Night, held Dec. 1.
“People were in shorts,” he said.
Still, daily sales, he said, would be stronger at the gallery if enough snow hit the San Juan Mountains to get Purgatory Resort hopping. “We’re not getting as many tourists in town because of the lack of snow.”
One shop downtown that is feeling the effects of a lack of snow is Gardenswartz Sporting Goods, 863 Main Ave. Store manager Thomas Downing says, “We’re down. The lack of snow means people are not here.”
The store is particularly reliant on a good number of skiers in town who forgot gloves, equipment or simply want upgrades, he said.
But Noel Night sales were strong, and Downing says Gardenswartz’s holiday sales are only slightly down. If the snow gods opened up on Southwest Colorado, he said, “It would be a whole new ballgame for us.”
Sylvia Bedwell, who co-owns Kids Rock, 563 Main Ave., with her daughter, Tiffany Seely, has been in business for 14 years, but this year has almost been like starting a new business because the shop has added toys after specializing in clothing for 13 years.
“This is the first Christmas when we are seriously a toy store,” she said. “So far, so good, but we’re still flying by the seat of our pants,” she said.
Bedwell “doesn’t mind nice weather personally” but suspects some snow would increase sales.
Beyond the weather, Bedwell says the main boost the shop gets for sales doesn’t come from white powder falling from the sky but coal smoke going up into the atmosphere from Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge trains.
“I thank God every day for that train. If we didn’t have that train, I don’t know what we’d do. So, Al Harper (owner of the D&SNG), thank you.”
She’s especially grateful for D&SNG’s special trains – The Polar Express, the Christmas Tree Train and The Great Pumpkin Patch Express – that bring in clientele that’s right in the toy shop’s wheelhouse.
“I’m going to be all right snow or no snow,” Bedwell said. “Grandmothers walk in here, they don’t stand a chance, but we do need snow. You’ve got to worry about the fires.”
The Joyful Nook Gallery, 640 Main Ave., is in its inaugural year, opening on June 30, so store manager LeAnne Schwab was unsure about what to expect, but she said Noel Night brought a lot of new customers into the shop who were unaware of the high-end stationery and custom-made puzzles and original artwork available at the shop.
“We had several people come back and order custom puzzles,” she said.
The unique shopping experience on Main Avenue is something that attracts people regionally, and protecting the critical mass of specialized shops that serve as a shopping magnet throughout the Four Corners is something Durangoans are cognizant of and are willing to support with their shopping dollars, said Andrea Avantaggio, who co-owns Maria’s Bookshop with her husband, Peter Schertz.
“Durango values its vibrant downtown, and people realize you can’t just value it with lip service,” she said. “You have to spend dollars.”
Paula Bradford, community relations manager for Maria’s, said, “People come up here from Farmington and even Albuquerque because there’s nothing like it where they are.”
Avantaggio is also OK with the season’s disappointing snow situation. “I think a little bit of snow helps, but a lot of snow doesn’t. People can’t get out of their driveways.”
Noel Night was notched as a success, with 40 dozen cookies gone in no time, and Avantaggio says Maria’s Christmas seasonal sales are up from 2016.
At Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory, 680A Main Ave., holiday sales are running ahead of expectations despite the lack of snow, said store manager John Kamleiter.
Still, Kamleiter said sales would improve with snow. “We’re doing really good with locals, but it seems like it’s a little slow with tourists. We just don’t have snow. Snow in Durango would be good for everyone. If Purgatory’s doing good business, we do get better business. You need to snack on something on the hill.”
At Affordable Framing, which has been open in Durango for 22 years at 955 Main Ave., Holly Merrifield-Lee, who co-owns the shop with her husband, Steve, isn’t too worried about the unseasonably high temperatures and blue skies. She is simply glad we are no longer in an election year, a time when sales almost always tank.
“The worse the media is about the election, the worse the business is,” she said. “People don’t like change.”