Walking around downtown Ballard on Friday afternoon, holiday shoppers seemed few and far between. Perhaps that’s because the final shopping crunch had yet to come. Or perhaps it had something to do with the time of day. In any case, considering the economy, a number of shops in Ballard are satisfied with how sales are going. Some, such as Blackbird, even say they’re doing well.
“We’re getting a lot more foot traffic than last year,” said Nicole Miller, owner of Blackbird, Inc., adding that, “online sales are growing tremendously.”
That’s great news for the company, which runs Blackbird, Blackbird Candy Shoppe, and The Field House. Since they sell seasonal clothing, among other products, they depend on the holiday shopping season to sell their fall merchandise. (In related news, Blackbird’s women’s store, Birgitta, closed this past weekend. In a press release, Blackbird reported that almost a year after opening Birgitta they, “realized that the other Blackbird businesses were more successful and took far less effort.”)
A few blocks east, on Market Street, the Ballard Sip & Ship also reports improvements. The Ballard/Greenwood Sip & Ships—which offer an assortment of paper goods and gift items along with shipping services—had been in the red for 15 months, and just came out of it last month, said co-owner Diana Naramore.
Ballard Mail & Dispatch, otherwise known as the Sip & Ship, is the one place you’ll find Ballard gear, said co-owner Diana Naramore.
The snowstorm that blew into the region just before Christmas last year made it difficult for many people to get around, and forced some to stay close to home. With fewer shoppers getting into their cars, businesses experienced a couple scenarios: fewer customers in some cases, and more customers visiting stores within walking distance in others.
(A reminder of what downtown Ballard looked like a year ago.)
For La Tienda, the snowstorm was “disastrous,” said co-owner Monique Tran. “Sales were down around 40% for five days which are usually five of the busiest days of the year.”
This year’s holiday sales at La Tienda are about the same as last year, said Tran, who encourages shoppers to buy their presents in Ballard. She believes that the business district contributes to Ballard’s character, and that it’s something that needs to be preserved.
“The Ballard business district is a large and varied collection of high quality independent businesses,” she said. “Many of these businesses are struggling to survive. If too many go under the critical mass that makes Ballard special may disappear never to return.”
The Field House and the other Blackbird, Inc., stores (Blackbird and Blackbird Candy Shoppe) offer everything from Stanley thermoses and flasks to chocolate hedgehogs, and much more. Clothing brands include Comme des Garcons, Helmut Lang, RRL, and Blackbird Vintage.
Ballard is full of shops offering everything from high-end clothing to affordable fashion accessories, kitchen gadgets to cookie-making supplies. One can find rare records, fine French teas, and much more.
“Seriously, Ballard has so much to offer,” said Diane Macrae, owner of Venue Ballard. “We have a fireplace store, for crying out loud.”
At Macrae’s store, shoppers will find one-of-a-kind items—jewelry, trinkets, paintings and more—made by local artists. A number of artists have studios in the store, and shopping at Venue allows customers to support multiple local businesses within one place, Macrae said.
If shoppers can’t find what they are looking for, the staff often refers them to another store in the area that will, Macrae said. She’s proud of what Ballard offers, and wants to help shoppers find the perfect gift, service she said they won’t get at the mall. “It’s all about giving the customer what they want.”
Sarah Furstenberg, owner of the children’s store Clover on Ballard Avenue, has a similar dedication to customer service.
“I love to help people find stuff if they’re stumped on what to buy kids,” she said. “I have two kids and they’ve played with everything in the store.”
Shoppers hoping to find last-minute presents and stocking stuffers have until Christmas Eve to find the perfect gift for their friends and loved ones. Many stores are open into the late afternoon, and some say they’ll stay open as long as they have a customer in the store. (Disclosure: Sip & Ship is a sponsor of MyBallard.)
D.D.S. is a freelance writer for MyBallard.com. She has years of journalism under her belt producing/writing for television and writing for print. She and her husband live in the neighborhood.