Winter weather leaves businesses playing catch-up
Snow, freezing rain and frigid temperatures mixed to create difficult transportation conditions for long stretches in December, January and even into February. This caused periods of slow commerce in Southwest Portland.
One of the harder hit business ventures? The Hillsdale Farmers Market, the only market in Southwest that's scheduled to be open through the winter.
"The Dec. 18 and Jan. 8 closures were unprecedented in that the market has never closed two consecutive markets," said Sarah West, who up until mid-January managed the Hillsdale market. "(Vendors) lost a month's worth of sales at a time of year when they still have a good amount of storage vegetables and a dwindling but still vibrant supply of fresh crops."
The Hillsdale Market operates in the Rieke Elementary parking lot, which remained blanketed in snow and slick with ice during the two weekends cited by West. She said snowy conditions affected the farmers in more ways than one.
"Sustained cold temperatures and snow also damaged vegetables that are usually still plentiful in December and early January," West said. "When we came back for our Jan. 22 market, we definitely noticed a reduction of product from what we normally see this time of year."
With a break for the holidays, the market was off for six consecutive weeks, an extensive stretch for customers.
"It's a hard sell to get customers to shop outdoors in the winter," West said. "We have a strong base of dedicated shoppers who come out no matter the weather and spend generously... However, every market also needs a healthy population of casual shoppers to stay vibrant. I think we lost some folks from that group by being closed for so long."
Despite the setbacks, West says there's still a good amount of produce at the market, and she thinks it could still bounce back this season.
Area shops are hoping they can bounce back, too. Southwest Capitol Highway, the main thoroughfare through the Multnomah Village shopping district, also remained slick and covered with snow during the December and January deluges.
Michael Carroll co-owns Healthy Pets Northwest, a pet supply shop at 3612 S.W. Troy St., just off Capitol Highway. He says he closed up when the weather became untenable, as it did during the Jan. 10 snowstorm that pummeled the Portland metro area through the night and into the next day.
Though he noticed an uptick in sales both before and after the storm — pet owners gathering food in preparation for and as a result of not leaving their houses — Carroll said he lost profits during the closure from a lack of sales and because he covered his employees for a full shift.
"We're a small, family owned business, and our employees are pretty valuable," Carroll said. "So we took the hit from the business rather than making them do it."
Still, he's been heartened by the community response to the setback. "We really appreciated the support from the local community and the people that live around the Village," Carroll said.
Another business in the Village, the wine shop Sip D'Vine at 7829 S.W. Capitol Highway, stayed open during all of the snow events this season.
"As long as I have clean glasses, I don't even really need power!" joked owner Jill Crecraft. She said that mostly the weather brought upbeat, excited customers by "foot, sled, innertube and lots and lots of snowshoes."
Crecraft says customers came in to catch up over a bottle of wine, and even to play games bought at nearby Tinker Toys.
Though her business was marginally affected, she saw the weather effects as just another part of the "ebb and flow" of business.
"Yes, we've gotten a little more winter weather than normal, but it's winter, it does this," she said. "It's life!"