FALL FOR FREMONT RETAILERS
by Kirby Lindsay
Summer in Fremont equals activity and events, and sidewalks that teem with participants who quickly transform into customers for local shops and restaurants.
“We definitely do depend on walk-by sales,” Sue Sanem, owner of Portage Bay Goods (706 N. 34th St) allowed. “Generally more people are in Fremont during the summer,” Kirk Richmond, part owner in Far East Handicrafts (127 N. 36th St), explained. He expressed particular appreciation for the tourists that can find his store thanks to the Walking Guide to Fremont.
Sanem checked her sales figures and acknowledged, “September/October is slower than the summer.” For her though, the slowdown has an upside – projects get attention. “We use that time to figure out inventory,” she said, “December is so fun and busy and exhausting! I look forward to taking a breather beforehand.”
Primarily a wholesaler of Fair Trade imports, the Far East retail business comprises only a small part of their sales. Walk-in sales help grow the business but, “we always have inventory moving,” Richmond explained.
Richmond hasn’t bothered with bargain sales to clear out inventory in slow times. Instead, he admitted, “it is always bargain days at Far East Handicrafts.” Purchasing in foreign lands, in foreign tongues, means sometimes he gets products in colors, styles or sizes his wholesale customers can’t use. He said he has learned, “just because somebody is nodding their head and saying ‘yes’ doesn’t mean they understand. They may just mean to be polite.”
Lisa Magetteri, owner of Fremont Jewelry Design(3510 Fremont Place North), said sales remain consistent through Fall in her shop. “People always get married, or need jewelry repaired,” she explained, “I have a lot of local customers,” and they stop by in fair weather or foul.
Still, “[First Friday] Art Walk is definitely helping,” Magetteri admitted. She thinks people, especially those who work during the days, appreciate the monthly opportunity to stroll shops open later in the evening. “I get a lot of customers from the friends of the artists,” Magetteri said about those who come in to show support, and stay to shop. She mused, “I don’t understand why more stores don’t participate.”
“We always do better during Art Walk,” Sanem also acknowledged. In fact, she will probably hold her annual pre-holiday sale during the Walk on the First Friday in November. Until then, she stock the store with her always creative and rarely predictable products ordered last May for the holiday season. “It’s fun for me to offer an alternative,” Sanem explained, and the gift items she sells often define ‘alternative.’
Bargain sales help bring in customers, but these small business owners mentioned less obvious, more creative methods for drawing in customers. “Lighting is a big thing,” Richmond mentioned about his region of Fremont which can be dark. He said he will try to use lights creatively, “to say ‘Hey! We’re here!”
Last year, Fremont Jewelry Design took the Evening Magazine Best of Western Washington award in the Fashion/Designer category. This year, Magetteri campaigns for votes. “[The award] gives me great recognition,” she said, “and also the name of Fremont.”
While all three spoke with heartwarming positivity of their projected sales, Magetteri voiced a broad perspective. “We’re all in this together,” she said of the recession, and recovery among retail businesses, “we really should all be helping each other.”
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.