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Portland retailers stuck in the cold

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Tess Vigeland: The economy of course is a big factor in those slow sales that have retailers in a panic. Potential shoppers are watching their retirement accounts shrink, and the housing market seems to get worse by the hour; today we learned that existing home sales fell by yet another record amount last month. But over the last week and a half or so, Mother Nature has had to take some of the blame. One of the worst hit areas is the Pacific Northwest, where an unusually heavy amount of snow brought shopping in Seattle and Portland to a standstill. Mitchell Hartman reports, from the entrepreneurship desk at Oregon Public Broadcasting, on a couple of stores trying to shovel out and survive.

Mitchell Hartman: It’s two days before Christmas, there’s a foot of snow on the ground. It’s still impossible to find a place to park, and I’m going to look for stores that are open.

Katie Mueller: It’s a morning ritual that we do to kind of announce to the street that business is open, and we’re here.

That’s Katie Mueller opening up the New Age book and gift shop she manages. No bells rang on Sunday, when the shop was closed due to snow. But yesterday, when they reopened, store clerk Ammon Wright says shoppers were buying.

Ammon Wright: If they can get to one store and get as much shopping done as they can do there, they will and so we’ve had big sales, not a lot of sales.

Jodi Iverson: Luv ‘n Stuff Flowers.

Jodi Iverson manages her family’s flower shop. They didn’t open to retail customers yesterday, and today they were opening late. Opening at all was a gamble.

Iverson: For a walk-in, it’s kind of hit or miss. When there’s a little sun and the streets are clear, there’s a flood of people. When it has a fresh snowfall everybody stays inside. So paired with the economy it’s kind of been a downer.

I met Bob Scherb shoveling the small parking lot of his wine shop. He hasn’t closed a single day during the latest storms. As a small business owner, he figures by keeping his doors open, he’ll capture whatever shopping is left in this dismal holiday season.

Bob Scherb: We felt with the holidays coming on and the season already being pretty negative we needed to stay open and make sure that our customers were served and that we were going to make it through the holidays.

And Scherb’s suggestion for shoppers trying to make it through? A nice bottle of Madeira or port.

In downtown Portland, I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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