Though the nation's headlines bemoan the terrible Christmas sales season this year and the local weather in December wasn't the best, most Cherokee retail business people reported pretty good sales.
The Chronicle Times surveyed 15 local businesses for a few days before Christmas and most reported that their businesses don't seem to have been so adversely affected by the economic recession as those on the East and West coasts.
Darren Zwifel, owner of Darren's Clothing Company, said business has been "nice and steady" at his place of business. He said that no particular clothing item was an especially hot seller, but rather the store sold "a little bit of everything" in the days leading up to the holiday. Zwifel feels that people in the community do a good job supporting local merchants.
Kurt Clabaugh at the Fashionette also said sales had been going well there, especially winter clothing items such as coats, hats and mittens.
Judy Klee at the Spice Rack said that while sales of some items in her store did not sell as well as last year, she has been very busy with the bakery end of the business, working long hours in the kitchen to keep up with orders for Christmas baked goods.
Another new business, the Cherokee Guitar Shop, which just opened at Thanksgiving time, has no prior Christmas season with which to compare sales, but owner Brad Dirks said that business has been pretty good and they have sold a few entry-level guitars.
Kim Barrett at Quilt and Kaboodle said that her business has done "great" in the weeks leading up to Christmas, with quilt racks, gift certificates and quilting kits her biggest sellers. Barrett said business was "fantastic" in November, ahead of last year's pace.
Another business having its second Christmas season this year was The Book Vine, and owner Mollie Loughlin says her Christmas season was very good, as she sold a lot of books and gift certificates.
Justin Dreeszen, manager at K-Mart, said sales at his store have been "very good when the weather has been good," and that the store has been selling "a little bit of everything."
Jim Nelson, the manager at Bomgaar's, said that his store's sales have been very good, especially weather-related items such as winter clothing, shovels, snow blowers and automotive chemical additives.
Sue Owens, at Bits and Pieces, said that her sales have been "decent" this December. She has sold a lot of boots and "necessity items" such as shirts and jackets, but sales of other items have not been as brisk.
Judy Claussen at Everlasting Memories said her business has been "kind of slow," though she noted that it had picked up a little the last couple of days. She feels that some of her regular customers have "cut back on their spending this Christmas."
Bonnie Varce at The Framing Nook and Main Street Antiques also feels that "people's priorities have changed," and that has helped to contribute to her business being a little slower recently. Her J.C. Penney Catalog business, however, has been doing all right, and she notes that she has sold a lot of Penney's Gift Cards lately.
Russ Harvey, owner-manager at Judy's Hallmark Store, says that his store's sales this Christmas season were "not as good as last year's" (which was the best year of the four years he has been there). He feels sales of Christmas cards are "about the same as usual" this year, and said his store's "hot items" are Webkins, candles and diffusers, and "Elf on a Shelf."
Marilyn Samsel, co-owner of Creative Services and Grin and Wear It, said that sales had been going well "for the last week-and-a-half," citing sports-related clothing and gift items, especially those associated with the Cowboys, Packers, Bears, Vikings and area high schools, as their biggest sellers.
Chad Carey, owner of Carey's Furniture, said that, though business had "seemed kind of slow," he said that "the numbers tell us we're right where we should be," and said that the year of 2008 had been the "best year ever" in the 27 year history of the store. Carey said that no particular item of merchandise stood out as the "hot item" this year.
Mark Arnold, manager at Royer's Jewelry, said that there was "no question that business was down from last year," and felt that the bad weather had played a factor in that, but also noted that he has learned that in the jewelry business there is often a "spurt right before Christmas."
Hy-Vee Drug Store manager Jason Van Vactor said that sales at his business were "just fine - about the same as last year."
It seems that the best business this Christmas season was in the field of electronics. Steve Ebert, owner of Wilson's TV and Electronics, said he's been "very pleased" with sales in this, his first Christmas at Wilson's. In addition to sales of furniture and some appliances, his store has sold a lot of flat-screen televisions.
Tom Letsche at Radio Shack said that flat screen TVs, digital converter boxes, cell phones and MP3 players have been big sellers there.
Garrett Halverson, the manager at Melander's, also reported pretty good business, especially with flat screen television sets.
Opinion seemed to be divided on the weather's effect on Christmas shopping in Cherokee. Some business owners felt the weather kept people away, while others felt that perhaps some shoppers who would have otherwise traveled out of town to do their shopping chose instead to shop locally and not risk driving on bad roads in bad weather.