Residents of North Kitsap are feeling generous this year. Local businesses are reporting positive numbers in holiday traffic, and say buying local isn’t the only trend — locally made products are also booming.
Both the Poulsbo and Kingston chambers of commerce report local businesses are busier than ever, and have seen an improvement over last year’s sales. Local festivals are gaining in crowd numbers — such as Jule Fest in Poulsbo and Country Christmas in Kingston and Port Gamble — which business owners say contribute positively to their consumer traffic.
“Saturday was the biggest day ever in the store, and by quite a large margin,” said Tracy Zhu, owner of Tango Zulu Imports in Port Gamble. The Saturday she refers to is Dec. 10, during Port Gamble’s Country Christmas celebration.
This year there was also a national campaign to “Shop Local,” with a big push to patronize local businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this Local Saturday may be a new trend.
Thor Skald found his local customers are loyal to products made in the area. It may help that he runs a very Scandinavian business — he owns Viking Ice Cream on Viking Avenue, making his ice cream in Icelandic tradition. Skald said Poulsbo has been very supportive, and much of his “marketing” comes from word of mouth. Besides his store, he sells at local markets, offering seasonal flavors like peppermint and gingerbread.
“Business has been tremendous,” he said. “The local movement has been crucial. I probably could not have done this 10 years ago.”
Christy Camerer, owner of the soon-to-be-open Bluewater Artworks Gallery and Framing in downtown Poulsbo, said she’s seen and heard of a lot of people who are bringing out old skills, like knitting or pottery, to supplement their income. And consumers like the products.
“People are willing to spend the extra $10,” for something handmade, she said. “People are spending money, they’re just spending it differently.”
Sandy Kolbeins, owner of The Loft restaurant and president of the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association, said his numbers are up from last year, and other downtown businesses seem to be “holding their own.”
“We’re not setting any records,” he added. But working together as a group to market themselves is a benefit of their clustering of businesses.
Sandy Hunter, interim executive director of the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce, said 15 new members have joined the chamber, some of which doing so to market more.
“With the economy in a downturn, this is really when companies need to get out and market more,” she said. “They’re seeing the return on investment…it may have boosted things a little bit.”
Kingston chamber executive director Linda Fyfe agreed — businesses that market together are faring well.
“The two restaurants open for dinners are doing well, the theater is bringing people to town,” she said. Kingston seems to be “moving in a forward direction.”