Sisters Retailers See Mini-Tourism Boost


As summer’s midpoint arrives and the epic heat wave fades into a milder August memory, the City of Sisters has enjoyed a robust economic season amid the settling dust of Rodeo Weekend and the fluttering colors of the Outdoor Quilt Show.

With nearly six more weeks of summer left and many ice cream socials, music concerts, farmers markets and wild west shows yet to come, Sisters is sitting pretty and welcoming visitors and locals with open arms and stunning views.  Hotel beds are full, prime parking spots are rare and fly-fishing tours are booked solid.

Sisters Coffee Company, traditionally a focal point of civic events and community gatherings, has served a thirsty wave of summer tourists with their home-roasted coffee beverages and is hoping the remaining months pan out in similar fashion.

General manager Rob Anderson says Sisters Coffee has fortified their barista force well and feels the store is benefitting from the enjoyably warm climate and better economic outlook.

“The amazing weather is a huge central factor any time you’re dealing with a tourist town like Sisters,” he said, taking a quick break from behind the bar.  “We’ve definitely seen an increase in business over last year, there’s no doubt.  And it’s interesting because there isn’t any one area, like bean sales versus pastries versus espresso drinks.  Everything is climbing.  We’re seeing more people, more tourists and I’m even seeing more locals.  We were really prepared going into June by changing the layout of the bar to allow us to be more efficient, especially when we get mobbed during big events like the Quilt Show last month.  By staffing up we’ve been able to quickly accommodate changing influxes of customers throughout the day.”

A new western-style brew bar set up outside is a great way for customers to get drinks without coming into the store, like iced coffee on tap as well as hot coffee, hario, iced tea and lemonade.

“It’s been super convenient and taken a lot of the heat off the staff during peak traffic hours.  It’s open on weekends only and we’re looking into expanding that as the summer continues.”

Old West Collectibles recently relocated their business from Main Street to a more visible space on Hood Avenue, a victim of the major parking changes enforced along the street.

Owner Len Gratteri is glad he moved to their new corner spot and saw an immediate increase in business over last summer.

“With thousands of antique postcards, books, historic photographs, old gambling paraphernalia, period calendars and old west bottles, it was a tremendous undertaking getting it all moved over but we’re all set up now,” he said.  “Being here on Hood I get much more exposure and better foot traffic.  We’re here in the antiques and art gallery neighborhood so customers can find us quicker.  Business has probably tripled since last year due to the move and the added numbers I see stroll past and stop by to see us.  People tell us we’re like a museum where you can actually buy stuff.  It’s a unique collection you won’t likely see anywhere else outside Sisters and that is part of the colorful variety the town offers.”

Chomping through their first summer, Odd Dawgz gourmet hot dog takeout stand proprietors Tad and Shirley Halladay are experiencing a similar mini-tourism boost on a bit milder note.

“We have a great following already from Sisters’ locals but the surprising thing is that the tourists don’t really find us back here,” said Tad.  “So we’ve changed our hours to from 11-3 Monday through Saturday and hope that helps.”

This being an experiment for a viable business to support a couple through the busy summer months, hitting the halfway-point point is an important barometer and the Halladays are happy but cautious for the remainder of the season.

“We’ll most likely be back next May and close down for the winter.  People love the dogs and we now have punch cards and they’re filling up quickly so that tells us the locals are coming back for more.  It takes time to build a customer base.”

With fun titles like the “Sasquatch Field Guide,” “Squirrels of the West” and “The Bluebird Effect” alongside field guides, naturalist novels and New York Times best sellers, Paulina Springs Books is always a great gauge to predict the fair or foul economic weather.

Book seller, Amanda MacNaughton has seen a lively amount of foot traffic since June and crosses her fingers it will continue.

“This is a really great summer,” she said.  “It’s been extremely busy and we have lots of visitors and tourists coming through and the locals are shopping here a lot too.  I think it’s better than last summer, it feels much busier to me.  It helps that there are a lot of exciting books out right now.  There are some excellent kids books on the shelves and I’ve seen a lot of families and kids picking up games and books and puzzles to take into the outdoors with them.”

Paulina Springs caters to everyone from the quilt show ladies with their mystery and fiction requests to the serious-minded history and biography buffs.

MacNaughton believes the summer is perfect for families who are here on vacation or with friends camping.   The store has a full lineup and colorful stock of popular Euro board games, puzzles and kid’s toys that make them laugh.  Exactly what summer is for.

“As long as we don’t get a major forest fire, we’ll be doing fine,” she joked.  “We’re looking forward to a fantastic rest of the summer.”


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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