Ballard businesses vying for your holiday dollars

Small businesses are struggling. That’s no secret. The Seattle Channel recently produced a piece on shopping local which focused partly on Ballard.

John Sterlin, owner of Romanza, says, “We’ve kind of come to the determination that this is it. We really need to do well this holiday season. We can’t continue that downward trend very long.” The Seattle Channel talks to Sarah Scales, a Ballardite who says that although she’s out of a job and spending less this year, her holiday dollars will be spent here. “It’s just a better way to support them. Keep them going, keep the neighborhood going so it can keep its uniqueness.” You can watch the entire piece here. (Romanza is a sponsor of MyBallard.)

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

25 thoughts to “Ballard businesses vying for your holiday dollars”

  1. Thanks for the reminder, Geeky Swedes!
    Please shop local. I don't have much to spend this year either but I'll be doing my spending in Ballard.

  2. I wish I could say I had spent more in Ballard but it offers little of what I buy as gifts. I did spend some at Bartells and at least half of my gift purchases were at other local places in Seattle. This will certainly be a make or break year for many retail establishments.

  3. I'll be doing the same. I hate malls and won't be heading to one anytime soon – I'd much rather spend what I have here in the unique and more interesting shops we have on Market Street, Ballard Ave and elsewhere. That's one of the things I like best about the community and I want to see these businesses pull through this recession. Too many have left already.

  4. I don't want to be a grinch and I wish all the small business owners well.

    But personally this recession, coupled with some other life events, has made me look really hard at my spending and consumeristic habits. And frankly I can't see spending my money on a lot of what Ballard has to offer this year because a $14 dog-shaped soap or $18 box of caramels is not in the budget, not in line with how I want to shop, and from what I've heard, not really what people want to receive. I've had a lot of people ask if we can exchange hand-made, practical, or “experience” gifts instead of more stuff. The owners of Romanza seem very talented in many ways and I would love to be able to hire them for something where they use their talents, but I'm not going to be buying their merchandise this year.

  5. i want local businesses to do well but don't really want anyone “vying” for my holliday dollars…what are they, homeless beggars?

  6. I must agree with Te on this one.

    A few days ago I “celebrated” my one-year anniversary of being unemployed, so I'm watching my pennies but in no way want to stint on my loved ones. I walked from store to store on Market, then Ballard Ave., trying to find something affordable and appropriate for my father. Finally wound up at Kavu, where I found a really nice gift at a great sale price.

    I'd love to support my neighborhood stores as much as I did when I was gainfully employed, but that's not feasible now. So instead of indulging kitty with the pricy stuff at All the Best, I get her chow 'n toys at PetSmart. (She seems no worse for it.) For my two-legged family and friends, it's Target and Costco.

    I'd much rather buy locally, but what I give up in terms of 'unique, cute and expensive' is more than made up for in 'sensible, usable and affordable'. Tis the season. Dammit.

  7. Kavu is one of the few Ballard stores that really sells anything of use in this new economy. I have always been able to find good stuff there.

    The days of the cute, nice-smelling, overpriced gift shop are over.

  8. Well, I dropped some bucks in Ballard this week. I ordered 7 books from Secret Garden for my daughter's bookclub, picked up my coffee (and met a local actor in line), and discovered that store “Cookies.” I was looking for specific cookie decorations, and was trying to avoid Sur La Table. Cookies came through!

    Has anyone looked at the stuff in Romanza? It's gorgeous!

  9. Isn't it wonderful that instead of helping small businesses during the recession, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce is putting time money and energy into suing the city to stop a bike trail that was already approved by SDOT and already budgeted.

    WHY would any Ballard small business join the Chamber of Commerce?

    WHY should ANY OF US support any Chamber of Commerce member?

  10. Agree, Romanza is a lovely place to wander through. Expensive, but lovely. But you can get small stuff in there too. I bought my mom a beautiful and functional stone coaster for about $7. There are plenty of things in there that comply with my $10 per person spending limit.

  11. Have anything against the Ballard Merchants Association? I'm supporting these little local businesses to keep Ballard from becoming a ghost town of empty storefronts.

  12. I knew the comments would get a couple “I'm poor. These stores and yuppies are teh sux” kind of comments, but I'm surprised they're all like that.

    In the last couple weeks I bought a great wool coat from Encarto for about $175. I can't go out wearing it without getting at least one compliment on it every time.
    I bought a used camera lens from Camera Techs for less than I could get it on ebay.
    I bought a really cute ornament for the tree for $6 from one of the stores on Market.
    I bought a beautiful Christmas tree from the scout lot on 15th that makes me smile every time I plug in the lights.

    Could I wear my old coat? sure. Maybe find a tattered or ugly one from Goodwill, sure, but I wouldn't enjoy wearing it. I could get by without a Christmas tree too. But I am working and all of these things were great deals that I couldn't beat online or in big box stores when I factor in my needs. I'm not doing these businesses any favors by buying stuff as much as they are doing me favors by having good deals on the stuff that I need and want.
    I'm not trying to come down on the people who can't afford to buy anything, believe me I've been there. But the people who just hate on all these stores and the shopkeepers who are scraping by trying to make their dream happen piss me off. The people running these little shops put a lot of time and effort into keeping these places going and sometimes they don't match what you're looking for but are perfect for someone else. I walk right by a yarn store that my mom would spend hours in, just like my wife gets bored after a minute in the camera shop. You find the places that fit for you and help keep them going. I'm not going to moan about another yarn shop opening up just because I don't knit. It's someone's dream to own one and a bunch of knitters will be excited to have one more yarn shop.
    Good luck to the shopkeepers, and enjoy the holidays people.

  13. Here here! :-)
    I can only assume those complaining don't spend much time in Ballard. Live here but don't spend time here types. I've had to really budget this year but I can still get my shopping done in downtown Ballard.
    A lot of folks labeled Market Street Traders as 'just another Ballard boutique' and now they're closing. There is very affordable stuff in there. And fudge.

  14. Ever step inside? A lot in there under $20, under $10, etc. And the people I've bought Christmas gifts for in there will be blown away.
    No, it's not the cheapest place to shop, but where else can you get what they have in there? :-)

  15. Yeah, there are some items under $20, but generally I can get those cheaper elsewhere. I do buy a few things there from time to time, it's not that I NEVER do … but I don't buy nearly as much as I drool on when take a spin through there.

  16. Hey, if you're counting me among the “complainers”, don't. I shop in downtown Ballard and greater Ballard all the time, and in fact just now returned from a shopping trip where I spent money in half a dozen different stores on Market and Ballard Ave.

    My opinion that Romanza is a nice store but overpriced is a valid one. And it comes from years of shopping in downtown Ballard (and elsewhere) and knowing what the competition is.

  17. Romanza is overpriced as compared to?… The other boutiques in Ballard… try again. Romanza has items in every price range. I was just there to and Tableau and several others today. Romanza had more to choose from in all price ranges and more holiday items than anyone anywhere in Ballard (or elsewhere).

    Did you not watch the video that this article is about. The prices at local shops are higher because they can't buy in the quantities that the bigger stores do. It's also interesting to n0te, shop owners don't set the retail prices, the wholesaler/suppliers/manufactures/artists do. Generally shop owners will “keystone” prices so you will find that prices vary only slightly from one boutique to the next for the same items. Don't believe me? Ask a shop owner how it works or do some real research. To just say they are “overpriced” is wrong and actually, rude.

  18. Romanza is overpriced compared to other small shops in Ballard. Compare the prices on candles (exact same brands and scents) with the same candles available at Tableau, Camelion, Ballard Home Comforts or others. These stores all sell small quantities and offer more luxury and gift items than necessities and all compete with each other, so Romanza appears to have some room to lower their margin.

    John and Vince are nice guys, but so are the owners of these other shops. They are talented, but so am I and I have been unemployed (but not idle) for a year today. My dollars will be spent in Seattle as much as possible, but am also watching my pennies. For $25 I bought enough salts and oils at Dandelion to make dead sea salt scrubs for 12 people. At Romanza, that buys me enough for 1, maybe 2 people.

    By the way, it's not rude to have an opinion about “luxury items” seeming overpriced in these tough times. It's realistic and practical for some to avoid these items, so they don't end up in deeper trouble.

  19. Greetings!

    A customer told me I should take a look at the discussion on myballard about the recent Seattle Channel story. The story was about supporting your local shops because it keeps your dollars in the community and, it keeps your shopping experiences unique. A good piece I thought, actually better than I thought as I'm always terrified in interviews and tend to trip on my tongue and have dry-mouth. Thankfully they cut out the parts where I rambled on and made no sense.

    The poster was right that many shops “keystone” so prices are generally within a few dollars for the exact same product (provided the wholesale price was the same for the stores). The bottom line on prices are that retailers must take many variables (lease, payroll, shipping etc) into account when pricing. Probably the biggest reason that prices may vary slightly is a stores expenses. For example, a shop that appears to have higher prices might actually get less of a margin per sale just because of it's more expensive lease (I'm not saying that is is true for us, it's just an example). It is true that the retailer has little control. Wholesalers are raising their prices across the board so it's probably going to get even tougher to bring you shops such as the ones you see in Ballard today.

    In the case of the candle line that was addressed. It's Votivo! Unfortunately parts of this line are in several stores in Ballard. All shops usually try to find lines that are not represented in their area because we each want to be unique. I am aware that our prices on these candles are slightly higher than Chameleon and Tableau. If I lowered my price then they might feel the need to lower theirs. I don't really think a price war over Votivo would be helpful to us as a group and my current prices are probably helpful to them and I don't want to take that away either. We stock the entire Votivo line where, I believe, the others only stock parts of it. If you want to save a few bucks on a favorite scent, then I encourage you to go to one of their great shops but if you want to see the entire Votivo line then check us out.

    It truly does not seem fair to call Romanza “over priced” because one or even several of our lines can be found for less elsewhere. I'm sure if we singled out each shop in Ballard we could find examples where each one of them are “over priced” on one thing or another.

    We really do try to have items in all price ranges at Romanza. It's not always easy and we don't always succeed but please know that we are doing our best.

    Just so you know, we support and we always have a coupon here where you can save (with a few restrictions). So if there is a candle you want or anything else, use the coupon and save a few dollars!

    Happy Holidays everyone! We are so thankful to live and work in Ballard. This community really is a treasure.


  20. John, thanks for posting — I certainly can appreciate your perspective. And as I've stated above, I really love browsing through your store. While I'm apparently not your target audience, I wish you all the best in your ventures. I love having all the little boutiques in Ballard (and I'm a regular customer at many). It's what makes a small community great.

Leave a Reply