Local businesses doing the 'Shasta shuffle'

Skye Kinkade
Styles Larsen, left, owner of Shasta Base Camp, and James Cannon, owner of Couch Critics, recently consolidated their businesses into one location on Chestnut Street. This allows them to share expenses and reduce overhead, they said. They are only two of the many Mount Shasta businesses who are in the midst of a metamorphosis.

Driving through downtown Mount Shasta, it’s obvious that things are changing. Businesses are moving, closing and expanding, giving a new meaning to the phrase “Shasta shuffle.”

Over the past months, several businesses have closed their doors for various reasons, including Anika’s Eclectic Boutique, Pots and Pans, Anita’s Hallmark, Mt. Shasta Shoes, The Flying Lotus, Di Vino and Monte Bella.

But for every business that’s closing, there’s another that’s growing. Others are adapting to the economy and consolidating, like Shasta Base Camp and Couch Critics.

“By joining forces, we’re able to split rent and utility costs and cross promote,” said James Cannon, owner of Couch Critics, the video and gaming store that recently moved into the front portion of Base Camp on Chestnut Street.

“With us it’s sort of a yin-yang thing,” Cannon said. “They’re outdoors, we’re indoors... we play off one another.”

Styles Larsen, owner of Base Camp, said things are working well, especially since he and Cannon have similar clientele.

“I’ve had to adapt to the times and downsize my inventory to reduce overhead,” Larsen said of his business, which sells and rents a variety of outdoor equipment. “The local economy has challenged us, but this has worked out great... it’s been a good transition.”

Also making a transition is Shasta Yoga Center, which moved into the old Flying Lotus building above Video Village on Mt. Shasta Boulevard.

Over the weekend, many people came to help owner Amy Cooper move her business a few doors down to the new location.

“It was amazing,” Cooper said of the help. “It just goes to show the quality of the community.”

Cooper said she made the move because her lease was up at the old location in the upstairs portion of the Black Bear Building.

“We needed more space and the opportunity to grow,” she added.  In addition to yoga, Cooper plans to integrate “expressive arts,” including poetry, movement, dance and music to her business.

Lesa Michel, owner of The Gallery in Mt. Shasta, couldn’t stand to see the Shasta Yoga Center space empty. Instead of letting it stand vacant, she decided to do something about it.

The upstairs will now be an extension of The Gallery, which people can rent for social events, meetings, exhibits or other functions in a beautiful setting, Michel said.

“We’re calling it ‘The Gallery Experience’... It’s a beautiful, elegant spot with spectacular views of the mountain... it’s like another world above it all.”

This isn’t the only change happening for Michel. Di Vino wine bar, which subleased a space at the front of The Gallery, closed two weeks ago. Michel has since filled the space with “The Gallery Coffee Break,” which features coffee, tea and gourmet chocolates.

“It’s right in the middle of town, and it’s a great place to meet up with a friend and enjoy a break in a beautiful setting. It’s open so people can relax and enjoy the art,” Michel said.

She will also carry a variety of artisan kitchen crafts from local vendors, including sauces, dips and other products, including Bianca’s Gourmet and Sereni-tea teas.

“We want to keep the energy going,” said Michel.

Though it’s a tough time economically, Michel is excited about her new venture.

“It’s the time, I?can just feel it,” she said. “It’s the right time for our community to show growth. We’ll find a creative way to make it work.”

Also taking the plunge and expanding their business is John Williamson, owner of John’s Satellite and Radio Shack.

“People always told me I needed more room,” Williamson said of his current store on Chestnut Street, where his business has been located for 20 years. “We’ve been crammed into a building I own, but I’ve been waiting for the right location to open up.”

When Mt. Shasta Shoes closed in August and vacated a 3,200 square foot space in the Mt. Shasta Shopping Center, Williamson jumped on it.

“It’s not the best time as far as the economy, but when opportunity knocks, you must let them in,” he said.

The new, larger store, which will be opening soon, will feature more televisions, stereo equipment, cellular accessories, and home entertainment electronics, Williamson said.

He also plans to put in a coin counter, since that’s his hobby.

In addition, he’s considering carrying local gift items. He’d donate a portion of the income from the gifts to the Mount Shasta Beautification Committee.

“My mom always told me if you work hard, have a good product and are honest and honorable, they will come,” Williamson said.

Robin Harris and Anne Kline, the owner and manager of Pomodoro, are counting on it. They’re expanding their gift store on Mt. Shasta Boulevard to include the building next door, which was vacated by Monte Bella when they closed last week.

“It’s going to be called Lil’ Pomodoro,” Kline said. “It will be a baby and children boutique... we plan to open on Friday.”

In addition to carrying a variety of things for children and infants, Kline said she’ll carry items for mothers, including nursing accessories that you can’t find elsewhere in Mount Shasta.

“We’re really excited, but a little nervous, too,” Kline said of the decision to expand. “We really hope that more locals will come and shop with us, and not just the tourists.”

Taking over two empty storefronts which used to house Pots and Pans and Sacred Mountain Spa is Wholesale Solar, which sells renewable energy products.

“It’s nice to be downtown,” said Ellen Coleman, who owns the company with her husband, Mark. “We’re close to restaurants and there’s plenty of parking.”

The Colemans are in the process of purchasing the building so they’ll have more security in the future. Their business now has bustling office space at both storefronts and employs 19 local residents.

The outlook

Though the economy has been tough over the last two years, things are beginning to look up. The most recent sales tax figures for April through June show a seven percent increase from last year, said Mount Shasta city manager Ted Marconi.

This is good news for the city, because or every $1 spent at local businesses, the city gets one cent in sales tax revenue. This money goes directly into the city’s general fund to pay for police and fire protection, employee wages and a variety of other projects, Marconi said.

“Sales tax is actually the largest single revenue source for the general fund,” Marconi said.

Although figures are still down approximately 20 percent from where they were in 2006 and 2007, Marconi said things are slowly moving in the right direction.

“The recession is not over,” said Marie-Josée Wells, executive director of the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce. “It may be statistically over, but it’s not over. It will be a while before we fully recover.

We have to work on helping businesses out of the recession; we know small business is the engine that makes the economy work. If businesses are doing whatever they can to hang on, by design we have to do more than we think we can to help them. We are diligently working on new events and programs to counteract the upcoming slower season.”

According to statistics from the 3/50 Project, an organization that encourages people to buy locally, for every $100 spent in independently owned stores, a total of $68 returns to the local community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures.

According to Sustainable Connections, a group that encourages the choice of local, independently owned businesses first, there are many other reasons to shop locally. Perhaps most importantly,  one-of-a-kind, unique businesses are an integral part of Mount Shasta’s distinctive character. Also:

• Non-profit organizations receive an average 250 percent more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.

• Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation, thereby reducing the environmental impact.

• Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and provide many jobs to local residents.

• Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers. This means you’ll get better service.

• Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave and are more invested in the community’s future.

Anne Kline, manager of Pomodoro, plans to expand into the space next door to open Lil’ Pomodoro, which will carry things for babies and mothers. Though she’s a little nervous about taking the plunge in the current economy, she didn’t want to see empty storefronts in town.