Downtown Visalia retail remains hopeful despite new stay-at-home order

As retail is reduced to 20% capacity, some events are canceled, others quietly press on

VISALIA – Christmas shopping has looked a little different this year in downtown Visalia, but despite the colder weather culling the outdoor dining, reduced-capacity crowds and the governor’s new ICU capacity-based stay-at-home order retailers’ holiday spirit still remains hopeful.

Downtown Visalians CEO and Vice Mayor of Visalia Steve Nelsen said some tough decisions had to be made in canceling what would have been the annual candy cane lane parade, as well as the Christmas open house.

“The Candy Cane Lane Parade, that would have been the 75th anniversary. Never missed a step,” Nelsen said. “Then we had our holiday open house, which for us here is a really fun event. We get to interact with people, we have a train ride, we had music, we had Santa Claus—it was just a fun time. Usually three Thursday nights we put it on, and we had to curtail that. So it’s been very, very difficult.”

Despite the event cancellations, Nelsen encourages shoppers to come out and support local businesses, and they are ready to comply with the governor’s new stay-at-home order cutting retail customer capacity to 20%.

“The message we put out is support local [businesses]. They’re the lifeblood, the economic engine for the city of Visalia,” Nelsen said. “They have to monitor the amount of people inside the store. But in all honesty, local merchants aren’t like a big box Walmart or Target kind of situation, it’s pretty easy to meet that capacity. They’re all doing the masking, they all have sanitizers out.”

Nelsen said some of the small businesses downtown depend on the typical large turnout for the holiday season. He said Downtown Visalians provides an option for people who may be wary about in-person shopping, but still want to support local businesses during the holidays.

“We offer our gift check program, which can be used at a later date. They’re more than able to either come into our office, or they can email or call us, we’ll have it ready and they just come down and pick up the gift check,” Nelsen said. “If [people] are concerned about going into, say, one of our smaller boutiques, it’s a small shop and say there’s already two people in the store they’re uncomfortable in that type of atmosphere, then our suggestion is to buy the gift check.”

Michelle Wiebe Andrews, owner of Pacific Treasures in downtown Visalia, said the holiday season has been good to her shop so far.

“Everything is fine, our customers are being courteous and kind to each other,” Wiebe Andrews said. “We’ve had to learn how to do things differently, but as far as the shopping season, it doesn’t feel that different right now.”

Wiebe Andrews said Pacific Treasures has a big store that can still accommodate a substantial amount of people, so it’s hard to say if the governor’s stay-at-home order limiting retail to 20% customer capacity will have an effect on her revenue. She said at Pacific Treasures, they are utilizing things like curbside pickup and FaceTime shopping to give customers plenty of safe options to shop.

“If you call us on our store number, we’ll set an appointment with you and we will FaceTime and turn our cameras around and shop with you in the store,” Wiebe Andrews said. “With curbside, we’ll walk it out to you either in the front of the store or the back. We still have free delivery in Visalia, and we offer shipping, we only charge you for shipping what we are charged, we don’t charge any extra.”

Nelsen said while the candy cane parade and the Christmas open house are canceled, downtown Visalia will have some smaller events coming this holiday season, including Christmas carolers walking around downtown Dec. 11 and 18 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and a downtown window decorating contest, with the winner to be announced Dec. 17.

“We’re doing things quietly,” Nelsen said. “Hopefully, people will be coming downtown to support local [businesses], because like I said, that’s the lifeblood of our community, and the majority of all these people that are locally owned businesses live in the city of Visalia, and we need to figure out how to support them.”

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