Not all Tahoe businesses saw holiday success despite big crowds, big snow
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Feedback from North Tahoe/Truckee businesses this week on how they fared during the Christmas-New Year’s two-week period was mixed, despite the region having an abundance of snow for the holidays.
“It’s been absolutely crazy. It’s probably the best we’ve seen in recent memory,” said Brian Mastri, general manager for Tahoe Dave’s Skis & Boards, referring to holiday business. “(It’s) the first time I can remember — and I’ve been working for Dave for 17 years — we’ve ever run out of equipment.”
Despite Tahoe Dave’s being busy during the late 2014 holiday season, business this time around surpassed that by roughly 20 percent, which all four store locations in Truckee, Squaw Valley, Tahoe City and Kings Beach, he said.
Meanwhile, for the same time period, Greg Green, owner of Steamers Beach Side Bar & Oven in Kings Beach, reported sales being on par for the restaurant with last year’s holiday season.
“We did the exact same numbers for the holiday as last year,” he said. “ … I mean like within .001 percent. It was scary similar. Almost like I thought I had brought up last year by accident on the computer.”
Other businesses saw a slight decrease in holiday sales, such as the Cooking Gallery in Truckee, said owner Mike Preaseau, who is also president of the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association.
“Talking to a few businesses in the historic district, I hear the same thing,” he said. “Sale were flat, a little better or a slight decrease from last year. Not necessarily what one might expect given the amount of snow.”
‘At the mercy of Mother Nature’
Prior to Christmas, the region was blanketed in snow after a series of major storms brought several feet of snow over a week-long period right up until the night of Christmas Eve.
“The timing was good,” said Frank Jansen, co-owner of The Old Post Office Café in Carnelian Bay, one of the most popular breakfast spots in the Tahoe-Truckee region.
Jansen reported business was slightly up from the same time last year, thanks to the snow.
“This year, with all the options of skiing, sledding, cross-country skiing, the snow definitely contributed to all the tourists having fun and being happy, too, and maybe a little more willing to spend money because they were having fun,” added Amy Norman, manager of Bar of America in downtown Truckee.
Bar of America’s holiday business was up roughly 10 to 15 percent from last year, she said.
While some businesses benefit from good snowfall, for others that’s not necessarily the case, depending on timing of storms.
“We pray for snow all the time, and when it comes we can’t complain,” TDMA’s Preaseau said. “But the reality is and it always has been, or at least for the 40 years we have been in business in the North Lake area, snow during the Christmas week is never the best for retail. Snarled traffic, difficulty moving around and lack of parking all play a part.”
“We’re always at the mercy of Mother Nature,” Jansen added. “Too much snow, not enough snow (and) snow on Fridays is not good. If a big storm hits Friday, Saturday, people just don’t bother coming up.”
A ‘good indicator’ of spending
With snow on the ground and clear skies during the holiday period, the Village at Squaw Valley was nearly full with overnight guests during the Christmas and New Year’s weeks, said General Manager Christy Beck.
The lodge, which has 175 rooms in its rental program, had an average 97 percent occupancy rate for the two-week holiday period, up from last year’s 94 percent occupancy rate, she said.
“It’s fantastic,” Beck said. “… We always do pretty well over this time period as long as we have some snow. When we have snow, the rates can increase as demand increases.”
Overall occupancy projections for the greater North Tahoe region, extending from Incline Village to Squaw Valley, issued by the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association on Dec. 23 predicted more heads in beds than last year’s holiday season.
For instance, for Dec. 26, 2015, a total of 14,040 people were anticipated to stay at a lodging establishment that evening, compared to 13,579 for Dec. 27, 2014.
Projections are based on reservations and occupancy percentage on the books as reported by an anonymous sample group of motels, hotels and property management, said Anna Atwood, NLTRA marketing executive assistant.
“The lodging occupancy is a good indicator of the retail and activity expenditures in the region,” she said. “Holidays are very important because there is generally more discretionary spending per person during these times of celebration than during other times of the year.”
Two weeks does not make a season
Of the business officials with whom the Sierra Sun spoke for this story, all agreed the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season is an important time for business.
“These two weeks you kind of equate it to being busy over the Fourth of July,” Mastri said. “It’s just an important part of the season. A lot of our business comes over these two weeks.”
Having a strong holiday season can help businesses later in the year when business slows in the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) or due to poor weather.
“It’s a big plus just to build up a nest egg just in case everything falls apart on us,” Jansen said. “Winter-wise we can start off great, but it could start raining. It’s always good to have a little nest egg for the slower times.”
Another upcoming key business holiday for Truckee-Tahoe is Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend (Jan. 15-18). Jansen said he is confident it will deliver, since there is snow on the ground.
“Hopefully, this year we continue to get snow and keep business moving along,” Mastri added. “As good as these two weeks were, two weeks does not make your whole season. We need a continuation of the next couple of months.”