Tom Ross' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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I purchased a set of vintage, hand-woven horse reins on Friday, even though I don't own a pony. They represent the first of the holiday gifts I will purchase locally this season.
I picked up the reins at Annie's Home Consignments in the Sundance at Fish Creek center, where you can find a slew of gifts that aren't on anyone's list. The reins are woven out of multicolored strips of naturally tanned leather. The dull patina on the brass hardware confirms they have been well used. The reins, which seem to suggest a story that will never be told, are the perfect gift for my sister. She is a cowgirl masquerading as a business executive. Hopefully, "The Yellow Rose of Texas" isn't reading this column.
I have been hearing the annual mantra, "Shop locally this holiday season," ever since arriving in Steamboat for good in 1979. It would be easy to shrug it off, but I take it seriously.
Realistically, many of us will purchase gifts from merchants outside Routt County during the next 30 days. I have six relatives living on the Atlantic coast and four on the Pacific Coast. I find the cost of shipping to be a hurdle I must leap over if I am to purchase all of those gifts locally. There have been times when the $30 and $40 checks I write for shipping rival the value of the contents of the box.
But I've always made a point of doing much of my shopping here in town, and I'm planning to take a thoughtful approach again this year.
In the midst of a struggling national economic climate, the portion of our gift budgets that we can spend locally will contribute to keeping businesses viable and our neighbors employed. The sales tax revenues we contribute might even restore the Magic Carpet ski lift for toddlers at Howelsen Hill (please, Santa!).
But you're not going to shop for your family's Christmas presents in Steamboat solely out of a sense of civic responsibility. Do it because you can purchase meaningful gifts here.
If you purchase SmartWool socks or sweaters from one of several local shops, you'll support the business owner and the employees in career jobs up by the airport, at SmartWool's world headquarters. Even better, your friends and family members will become SmartWool converts.
You can't go wrong purchasing a handsome blanket from Routt County Woolens. Local sheep will have a brighter holiday season thanks to your generosity.
And, if supporting small-scale agriculture in the Yampa Valley is important to you, check out the clever potholders the Routt County CattleWomen are selling this holiday season. They are made out of the recycled back pockets of denim jeans. On the flip side of the potholders, you'll find brightly colored fabric reflecting a Western theme.
Don't overlook the galleries displaying the work of local artists.
And Steamboat's traditional retailers already have launched some killer holiday sales.
Annie Tisch at Annie's Home Consignments has hit on a great formula for the times we live in. You'll find a fairly steady stream of people coming and going from her store all day long.
Tisch has tapped into human psychology in the store where she sells a mix of antiques, almost-antiques and high-quality used furniture. The larger items are displayed along with a remarkable range of curiosities from vintage phonograph records to odd statuary and battered cowboy hats.
It's easier to describe the merchandise she will not accept than it is to describe her inventory. The "do not drop-off list" includes electronics, modern toys, clothes, children's furniture and sporting goods. Oh yeah, and mattresses. No used mattresses, please. Yuck.
Here's the brilliant part. Tisch signs a two-month contract with her consignors on a 50-50 split. The owner sets the full price, but it's only good for the first 15 days in the store. After 15 days, the price drops by 15 percent. It goes down by 30 percent of full price after 30 days and bottoms out at 50 percent after 50 days.
Shoppers who become intrigued with a particular item are faced with deciding between waiting for the price drops and acting before someone else beats them to these one-of-a-kind items.
It works, and stuff flies out of the shop. Annie's is constantly reinventing itself, so shopping there is like a treasure hunt.
Some customers come as often as three times a week. They come from all walks of life and include some big spenders. But you can find good buys all across Steamboat this season. I know, because I've been looking around.
Good deals are just what hesitant consumers are seeking in these sketchy times we suddenly find ourselves living in.
- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205
or e-mail email@example.com