Some say economy is slowing down local business

Amber McKinnon at Al’s IGA in Tonasket working at the Kodak kiosk during her shift. Al Seccomb, owner of Al’s IGA, said he thinks people made Christmas more of a food holiday this year than a gift holiday.Photos by Emily Hanson

Amber McKinnon at Al’s IGA in Tonasket working at the Kodak kiosk during her shift. Al Seccomb, owner of Al’s IGA, said he thinks people made Christmas more of a food holiday this year than a gift holiday.Photos by Emily Hanson

NORTH COUNTY – The answer to whether the national economic crisis has slowed business in Oroville and Tonasket depends mainly on who you talk to.

“The economy is absolutely affecting my business,” Vivian Taylor, who owns Appleway Books, Video & Gallery in Oroville with her husband Ken, said. “If you’ll look at my Christmas items, you’ll see I’ve sold almost nothing.”

Taylor added that she believes it’s not just the economy affecting businesses, but that it’s the people in Oroville thinking only of going to Wal-Mart.

“That’s hurting their town,” she said. “As far as what we can do, I don’t know. I think folks in this town should wander around town and utilize what’s here. I think folks should check the town first for what they’re looking for and then go down to Tonasket or Omak.”

This strategy seems to be working in Tonasket. Norma Jean Hart, owner of Hidden Treasures in Tonasket, said that she hasn’t noticed a difference in sales due to the economy.

“I think I’ve done the same,” Hart said. “People have been very supportive of small stores from Okanogan to Oroville and Republic. They come from the whole valley which is very appreciated.”

David Kester, owner of Lee Frank Mercantile, also said he doesn’t think the economy has really affected his business.

“My thoughts are that people are shopping at home instead of driving,” Kester said. “I can tell you there has been a change in sales. Large ticket items, containing steel or petroleum, are not selling as well as smaller items. The exception is wood pellet and gas stoves. Folks are buying those to avoid their other utilities bills.”

Kester said that, as a small community, Tonasket doesn’t see what is happening in the nation as rapidly as larger cities.

“The economy is more on an even keel in small communities, than it is in urban areas,” he added.

Al Seccomb, owner of Al’s IGA in Tonasket, echoed Kester’s thoughts, stating that he believes and he’s heard others say that Tonasket and Okanogan County have always had a little recession going on and so it’s difficult to say that the national recessions have really affected the area.

“With our shoppers, there’s a lot of crossover with Grant’s as well as Wal-Mart and Safeway,” Seccomb said. “Our shoppers are really quite mobile, it’s really hard to say ‘that person is our shopper.’ People are being more cautious as to what they buy, though, I think.”

Roger McClendon, owner of Yo-yo’s in Oroville, said that his restaurant has been affected by the economy and that they’ve seen changes in their regular costumers.

“People we see normally three times a week are now coming in only once or twice,” McClendon said. “We’re suffering as much as 25 to 40 percent less compared to the same three month period last year. All we’re trying to do at this point is to reduce our spending until after the inauguration, which I think will help.”

He said that he believes a lot of people haven’t personally been affected by the economy yet and are instead reacting to the fear of the economy affecting them.

“I think people will calm down a bit after the inauguration,” McClendon said. “We just want to be around when the economy recovers and we know it will, we just don’t know if that will be in six months or six years. It’s very understandable for our customers to spend less money. They’re frightened and they’re spending less.”

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