Taking the pulse of holiday shopping in Ballard

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.

11 thoughts to “Taking the pulse of holiday shopping in Ballard”

  1. The December art walk was a perfect opportunity to shop. My art walk party wound up spending a few hundred dollars between us on art, boots, and shoes. Last Saturday's luminary walk was, unfortunately, rained out.

  2. “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.”

    Yes! Businesses need to get online to supplement their in-store sales. With one exception, I did all my shopping online this year. I'm tired of stores complaining that online shoppers are ruining their business. Get with it!

  3. I just realized that I dropped some serious coin in Ballard over the past month…probably close to a grand when I count in some gifts to myself!
    The cool thing about it is that I didn't pay a premium for any of it. Two of the major purchases were actually great deals that I couldn't beat anywhere else.

  4. Just got home from a shopping trip to downtown Ballard. I “had” to buy some things at Lucca. It was fun just windowshopping and seeing what new places had opened. The shop at the former Collective site had a huge variety of items in their windows. The Field House is one of my favorite new shops. Where else could you get salt caramels, fancy candles and Filson gloves?

  5. I was also doing a little shopping (and planning for later) today. Don't forget Market Street Traders has a lot of deals right now. The reason behind the sale is sad but the shop itself is still the same happy little place to be. And everyone needs fudge for the Holidays.
    And, Uncle Snuffy, if you can't find a harmonica Market Street Traders has a bunch of African and Asian instruments. Including some whistles and flutes.

  6. I was waiting for the Blackbird bash to happen. :(

    I am so excited to see that our own local businesses are having a successful holiday season despite the economy and after last years snow storm.

Leave a Reply