So a few weeks ago I read an article in our local Chinook Observer. In that article our local City Councilman Del Murray commented that our local businesses had more business than they could handle. I was monitoring the sales in our store and did not see a huge uptick in sales that he indicated.
Of course, as a longtime business owner in Long Beach, I was concerned that we were not getting our fair share of sales. So I told my wife that we had to cut short our vacation and head home to see what our problem was. Well, after arriving home earlier than we had planned, I talked to the local retailers to see what we had missed. According to them, it was a big nothing burger.
Evidently this salesman/councilman that works for Ocean Beauty had made a statement that might be connected to the Fourth of July. First of all I wondered what councilman would complain about too much business in our city, which by the way translates into sales dollars.
The second thing that comes to mind is what if every one of Ocean Beauty's customers called the owner and said that they couldn’t handle all the business they had and went to another seafood distributor. I think those owners would say “that is a stupid statement.” Evidently this councilman does not see the big picture in tax dollars and what makes a healthy downtown survive.
So in a last ditch effort to help him and the rest of the council, in case they don’t get it, or understand how tough it is to survive in a tourist economy, I will attempt to explain. I am also sure other retailers could add to my thoughts if the council would take the time to ask. First of all let me say that we live in the best place I could ever think to live. We have a great community that even as we add new citizens we seem to care for each other and we all remain close. We have different points of view, but that is what makes us so unique. I’ve lived here, worked and owned one tourist business or another for over 25 years.
So to survive in business here you need to know how not to spend money. The tourist business is short. We virtually have from the time school is out (middle of June) until the end of Rod Run to make the money it takes to pay our bills for the year. Now it is true that we have some weekends before and after that, Spring Break, some holidays and if the Clam Gods smile on us we get some of those, too. Of course if you live here, you know those have been few and far between since 2016. We live by how the weather, fishing, clams and tourists treat us.
So, if you can count, that is about 12 weeks of summer or 84 days. Sometimes more, sometimes less. For that period of time we have to save money to pay year around rent, taxes, water/sewer, phone, garbage, internet and any full time employees we want to keep year around. Now sure, we make some money the rest of the months, but usually not enough to cover costs for those months.
It is true that in the summer months we are busy. If we are lucky, we occasionally have lines of people that are waiting for service. Those are the times (the good times) that we are banking dollars to survive and stay open during the winter months and pay those bills I talked about. Now if you are a local, you hate those lines, but if you like a downtown, this is what it takes to survive the winter and hopefully stay open for those that visit us during our slow times.
Believe me when I say you cannot find a line anywhere between the middle of September and the middle of March. In fact bowling down the middle of our main street might be a great activity. That is six months of sad, sloooow sales. If business was really great year around, other businesses and restaurants would be buying up the ones that are for sale. Now I would say to Councilman Murray, engage your brain before you open your mouth. The retailers know that at your last workshop you and other council members named and made fun of certain retailers and how they run their business. Don’t judge until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Remember you only have to travel a few miles to find communities where most of their downtown is shuttered and very few businesses are surviving.