Nevada County businesses hope for ‘Black Friday’ boost |

Nevada County businesses hope for ‘Black Friday’ boost

Dan Wheat, the owner of A to Z Supply on Ridge Road in Grass Valley, showing the local honey, other food items and bee keepers' supplies.
John Hart/ | The Union

As images of “Black Friday,” with its crushed crowds spilling into department stores, are flashed upon TV screens, local merchants are hoping residents desire a bit more of a serene shopping scene.

The concept of supporting local businesses is certainly not a new one to western Nevada County, as “Be Local, Buy Local” and “Think Local First” bumper stickers often spotted around the community serve as proof.

But with more “big box” stores opening closer to home and the continued growth of online sales, small-business owners in Grass Valley and Nevada City are hoping to capitalize on the community’s continued commitment to shop locally while offering, in return, high quality products and customer service to those who walk through their doors.

“The biggest compliment we get is for our customer service,” said April Reese of A to Z Supply, a store owned by the Dan Wheat family in Grass Valley.

“We do see a lot of holiday shopping. I think that’s one of the reasons Dad has added things to go along with our honey — Papa’s Wheat jams, jellies and salsa, along with Huck’s Hollow Farms spice mixes — because people do really like to stay local, even with their holiday shopping.”

Although such a commitment to shopping locally is regularly reported by businesses and customers who frequent them, more than $200 million is spent annually by area residents outside the community. A study by Texas-based Buxton Company indicated that much of that money spent “down the hill” is for furniture, electronics, appliances and clothing.

Results of a survey released earlier this year by the City of Grass Valley showed that residents desire such stores as Target, Ross, Kohl’s, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Costco — and the latter two are coming soon to North Auburn, an even shorter drive down Highway 49 from western Nevada County than the Roseville area many residents currently frequent.

Such leakage from the community results in sales tax revenue generated south of the Bear River that ends up in Placer County coffers, as opposed to funding tax-supported services provided by government entities in Nevada County.

Compounding the competition local merchants face, a recent Forbes magazine report showed that online shopping is expected to generate $262.3 billion in 2013, which would depict a 16.4 percent increase year over year — “and slightly higher than the 16.2 percent increase last year.”

Local business owners hope they can better compete by encouraging their customers to continue supporting other area merchants, as well their own, especially in order to capitalize on the holiday season.

A survey released by the American Research Group earlier this month shows holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $801 in 2013, down 6 percent from 2012, but still nearly more than half above the decade low of $417 in 2009.

“The fourth quarter can make or break some of the businesses here,” said Grass Valley Downtown Association Executive Director Julia Jordan. “We do our best in making sure people shop local. There are so many unique shops with so many different items. I think a lot of people just don’t realize it.

“If you’re looking for something, we’ll help you find it. If you call (the GVDA at 272-8315), we’ll help you find it. We try to help you find it (in downtown Grass Valley) first, but other places, too. Looking for ear muffs? Go to Swenson’s (Outdoors). Ear cuffs? Go to Serendipity. … I want to keep the dollars local, whether that’s Grass Valley, Penn Valley or Nevada City.”

The fact that both Grass Valley and Nevada City host Christmas celebrations that showcase their downtowns and their merchants is major benefit to local businesses, said Nevada City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey.

“It is huge,” Whittlesey said. “I don’t know what the percentage is, but (holiday spending) is a huge part of their sales. It’s starting to pick up again, though not nearly yet like in 2006.

“But I’ve seen more people here in the fall than I’ve seen in town in a long time, so we’ll hope that continues.”

For J.J. Jackson’s owner Teresa Berliner Mann, opening night of Nevada City’s Victorian Christmas Wednesday marks a big opportunity to boost the bottom line down the backstretch of 2013.

“It is a very important part of the year,” she said. “I’m grateful to live in a small town that celebrates a traditional holiday. We get a huge surge of people coming in. And it’s so much fun.”

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton via email at or by phone at 477-4249.

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