Holiday jingles with cash registers

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— Although the final word on the success of the holiday shopping season may not come out until December sales tax receipts are calculated, downtown business owners are confident the cash flow this Christmas has kept up with, if not outpaced, last year.

And without the bomb shelter mentality that overtook the world in response to the Y2K scare last year, the days between Christmas and New Year's may prove especially profitable, some owners said.

The Steamboat Chamber Resort Association's lodging barometer, though not a definitive source of lodging numbers, forecasted a strong holiday season this year, of which local businesses took note. The chamber predicted there would be 7,595 people visiting Steamboat this Christmas weekend, about 1,100 more than last year. Because there are more hotels open than last year, the increase in the number of visitors may not affect the amount of money that the lodging community takes in this year, but it may help local businesses that sell holiday gifts.

As Christmas rolled around, downtown business owners looked to last-minute shoppers to help fill their cash registers.

"It started a little slow this year," said Joe Kboudi, the owner of All That Jazz. "But we're counting on the last-minute shoppers. Last-minute shopping is kind of how things work around here."

Kboudi, a member of the Downtown Business Association, said businesses downtown were doing everything in their power to lure customers into stores. Catching the spirit of the season, he said, is one way the business community tried to improve sales this year. Downtown businesses invited carolers to serenade shoppers in their stores this season and, as usual, windows were full of holiday decorations.

Ty Lockhart, the owner of F.M. Light and Sons, also said he was doing a little better than last year and welcomed the resurgence in the tourist market.

"The weeks before Christmas and New Year's are some of the busiest times of the year because so many people come to town," he said.

Brett Lee, the owner of Straightline Outdoor Sports, said the fact that Christmas was on a Monday may help stores capitalize on last-minute weekend shopping.

Lee said the crowd was mostly locals on Friday but became more touristy on Saturday and Sunday.

The big item for Straightline Sports this Christmas was winter mocs, which are basically clogs for the snow. Lee said he sold 60 pairs of shoes just on Saturday, many of them winter mocs.

Vic Greenlee, the owner of Old Town Leather, said the Christmas season hasn't meant huge profits for him yet but that he is looking forward to the week between Christmas and New Year's.

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