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Shops full of good cheer

David Mirhadi
John HartMiriam Limov of Penn Valley races down the grocery aisles of the Nevada City SPD store on Zion Street Tuesday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

For the first time in 32 years, Jim Beitz isn’t worried about tomorrow.

Shoppers at his Mill Street jewelry store Tuesday greeted his warm smile with a congratulatory hug and best wishes.

While his fellow retailers downtown were hoping for a flurry of activity to boost holiday sales, Beitz was simply waiting until he could take some well-deserved time off.

“People have been very nice,” said Beitz between hugs and handshakes Christmas Eve. “I’ve been humbled more than once (since deciding in November to close his store).” Come Jan. 1, the store’s doors will be locked for good.

The store Tuesday brimmed with customers, some drawn by signs promising merchandise at up to 70 percent off, others just bidding farewell.

“There’s no comparison to last year,” Beitz said. Since announcing his closure, sales have been “off the wall. There’s no way to really say it.”

Sales appeared to be off the wall at the Kmart on McKnight Way, if one were to judge simply by the customer-return counter, packed over a half-dozen deep with shoppers.

Brandy Self of Grass Valley and her daughter, Betty, 2 1/2, were mesmerized not by merchandise inside the store, but by the litter of puppies barking in front of the store’s doors.

“Let’s take him home!” Betty Self cooed, kissing one of the pups on the nose.

After careful consideration, Brandy Self told her daughter the bad news.

“My husband would throw me out,” Brandy Self joked, noting that she already has three cats, two dogs and a fish at home.

Inside, Ken Schumacher and his son, Austin, 12, looked valiantly for a challenging Lego set.

Austin wanted one with more than 500 pieces and was coming up empty in the toy aisles.

Asked if he wanted to be shopping today, Ken Schumacher shrugged and said “Not really. It’s really tough when you look at the last minute.”

Many parents were shopping with their children, returning empty handed after visiting the Harry Potter section.

At Foothill Mercantile, owner Susan Amick said the shortened holiday season will probably have an effect on this, her 27th Christmas at the store.

“It’s been not excellent but it’s been good,” she said. “I think a lot of people were caught unaware.”

Asked if she was prepared for shoppers Thursday, traditionally a strong shopping day, Amick said: “Maybe, because I’m not ready now.”

Clarinda Stollery, co-owner of Toad Hall Book Shop in Nevada City, said she’d be open today for those strolling through town.

The shop on Pine Street has had a tough year, she said. After over 10 years in Grass Valley, the move to downtown Nevada City in April 2001 has been beset with problems beyond her control: the 9/11 attacks, the old Elks Lodge fire in March, and now the slow economy.

“We haven’t had a good shot at it yet,” she said.

Owner Rene Sprattling of the sandalwood and incense-scented Mostly Clay and Fine Crafts nearby had good reason to be in the holiday spirit.

“Our sales this year were probably better than I expected.”

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