Businesses are closing and businesses are opening in Mount Shasta and, overall, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Mullins says the town is having a great year. But the closing of Village Books, a staple of the downtown area for more than 20 years, is breaking some hearts.

After more than two decades in business, Village Books in Mount Shasta is closing shop and beginning a new chapter.

Alpine Originals also closed its doors recently, as did the vegetarian Indian restaurant Maruti.

Owners of the toy store ePuppets are considering closing, but they’re doing all they can to stay afloat.

Meanwhile, the old Strings building is being renovated to house a new restaurant: Lucille’s Tavolino and Wild Waters Lounge.

And a food truck, serving authentic Venezuelan food, has set up in the parking lot behind Parker’s Plaza as part of the city’s food truck pilot program.

Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Mullins said he’s sad to see businesses closing, but all in all, the town is “having a great year.”

He pointed out that Transient Occupancy Tax (paid by those who stay in hotels or motels) is up. “In fact, it’s the highest it’s been in years,” Mullins said. “The Chamber signed up 20 new businesses since March, and tourism is just through the roof.”

Mullins said record numbers are visiting the Visitor's Bureau, sometimes more than 200 per weekday. A little more than 50 percent of those visitors report that they’re on some sort of spiritual quest, he said.

“We are doing our best to create a robust business climate,” Mullins said. “If we have a good winter, it’s really going to make things pop. I think there will be a revitalization.”

Village Books closing

Village Books owner Kim Padilla bought the bookstore from Cathy Lancaster seven years ago. The store has been a staple in downtown Mount Shasta since 1994.

“Over the past few years we have attempted to sell the store, but the efforts were unsuccessful,” said Padilla. “The past five years have been rather difficult due to lower sales, taxes, and a changing economy. Recently, the rent on the building was drastically increased as well. Due to the combination of all of these things, I've decided to close our doors.”

The last day for the store is planned for Sept. 30.

“I understand it,” Padilla said. “The internet is impossible to compete with… I hung on two or three years longer than I probably should have. I’m having a hard time giving it up. But it is time to think with my head, not with my heart… If there is a special business in your town that you love, make sure to support it.”

Closing is especially difficult for Padilla because she has such great employees: Dave, Jess, Danielle, and Julia. She also has many regulars who are heartbroken to learn she is closing. They offered to come together and help with the amount her rent went up.

One man came in and bought four books. When she asked if he was in their Bookworm Club (buy 10 books, get one free) he said yes, but he wasn’t interested in that.

“He said he just wanted to support the store,” Padilla said.

Another woman came in, ordered an espresso, and bought a tea set for a little girl that was in the store with her family.

“They were very grateful. I was grateful, and told her it was very nice that she did that. She just shrugged her shoulders. She then said she also wanted to pay $100 dollars, and that she’d pay for an espresso for every customer that ordered one.”

“I asked her if she was sure. I was in shock, quite honestly in tears. She then handed me $80 in cash and said it was for tips. I gave the money to my employees that were working that day. I’m amazed at this woman's generosity… I am so grateful for her and the gentleman, and all my customers that have been so supportive… I finally had to say, ‘I give myself permission to let go. It’s okay,’” Padilla said.

Village Books is throwing a party on Saturday, Sept. 3, from 1 to 4 p.m. to thank all their customers for their years of supporting the store.

“We will have treats and appetizers. Victor Martin and Allison Skull will be here,” said Padilla.

The party will also kick off a sale, and everything will be 20 percent off. Padilla encourages anyone who has gift certificates or Bookworm coupons to use them while they can.

Lucille’s Tavolino to open

The old Strings restaurant is being transformed into Lucille’s Tavolino and Wild Waters Lounge, said owner Damion Smith, who is opening the restaurant with his wife, Elizabeth. They will serve Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

The old Strings banquet room has been “floor to ceiling remodeled,” and now includes a bar, said Smith. The rest of the restaurant building has been painted and refreshed.

The couple doesn’t have an exact opening date yet, but they’re excited to make their dream become a reality.

“We are generating a pretty cool buzz, and we’re hoping to build on that,” said Smith.

Lucille’s Tavolino means “Lucy’s Little Table,” said Smith, who has been a restaurant consultant and decided to go into business himself. He and Elizabeth moved to Mount Shasta from Fort Collins, Colorado. He has been visiting the area since 2002.

Venezuelan food truck comes to town

El Bululú Arepera features a menu of authentic Venezuelan food, which is naturally gluten free, featuring meat, vegetables, and other fillings inside grilled pockets of corn flour. The flour is made with a special process that allows it to be chewy on the outside and soft inside when cooked in olive oil.

“All our recipes are very authentic, passed down from my fiancee’s mother’s family,” said Ramirez, who learned them while visiting Venezuela.

“We stayed at his parents’ house, and the entire time I was in the kitchen,” Ramirez said. “I learned a ton of different recipes. It’s a great culture that is somewhat hidden right now by their economic crisis. I thought having Venezuelan food in Mount Shasta would bring some cool diversity.”

Ramirez said El Bululú is strictly a summer business, as she’s a student at UC Santa Cruz. She plans to close for the winter in mid-September and hopes to return a little earlier in the season next year.

She said business is picking up “slowly but surely” and now Bululu has a good steady flow of hungry customers.

Ramirez said they’ve been getting great reviews and many of their customers have found them via word of mouth. Traveling to events like Dunsmuir Brewfest also gave them some exposure.

El Bululú is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can order ahead, and they’ll also deliver around town, Ramirez said.

Contact them at (530) 859-6656. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.

ePuppets trying to stay open

Daniel Bryan, President and CEO of ePuppets on N. Mount Shasta Blvd., opened his doors last year on July 4. An internet marketing specialist who used to commute to the Silicon Valley to work for multi-million dollar companies, Bryan said he opened his storefront in Mount Shasta because he wanted to be home with his family, and also to contribute to the town’s economy.

Though he has considered closing the store, he is doing all he can to stay in business. He feels it’s important for the children of Mount Shasta to have a place where they can come see, touch, and choose a toy.

“This is not about making a profit… it’s about investing in Mount Shasta,” Bryan said.

To help give local businesses a boost, Bryan has several plans of action. He has registered the domain exit738.com, which he plans to use to attract Interstate 5 travelers to enjoy the pristine water and all Mount Shasta has to offer.

“The one thing Mount Shasta is best known for it's magical water… we can market this via billboards for 100 miles in either direction to create an awareness about downtown Mount Shasta. We can also… utilize Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube ads to smart phones within a 50 mile radius before even getting to Exit 738.

In addition, he hopes to kick off MtShastaTV.com, which will eventually feature interviews with business owners, government officials, artists, musicians, and other interesting people around town.