Shoppers asked to ‘take the Portland pledge,’ buy local gifts

Special Reports

It's been a difficult year for small businesses and holiday sales could determine their fate.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Forget a white Christmas; Portland businesses are dreaming of a profitable Christmas.

After a year of obstacles ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, to protests, to wildfire smoke, to burglaries, and more, it’s no surprise local shops are hurting. This year, more than ever, they’re relying on fourth-quarter sales to get them through to 2021. 

“Like many small businesses, we rely so much on the holiday season,” said Haley Dunham, manager of Woonwinkel, a home goods and gift store in downtown Portland. “We did the math and if we get 70% of our sales of last year, we will just be able to stay afloat.” 

Local shops have had to get creative and they’ve had to unify. 

That’s where PDXSOS comes in. It’s a program of Bricks Need Mortar, an advocacy coalition designed to support small, independent businesses. 

PDXSOS started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to encourage people to buy gift cards from businesses during the first shutdown. It then evolved into a directory of more than 600 small, brick and mortar businesses where people can shop. 

PDXSOS formed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and now serves as a local Portland business directory. (KOIN)

“We have everything from auto shops to yoga studios to massage and estheticians. We have gift shops and clothing stores. We have pet stores,” said Sarah Shaoul, founder of PDXSOS. “So, really, the whole continuum of Main Street.” 

PDXSOS intends to serve as a resource as people start to think about shopping for the holidays. They’re asking people to “take the Portland Pledge.” 

“What we do know is people in Portland do love their local businesses and want to support them, but might not know how. So we thought, OK, we’re going to create something called The Portland Pledge and we’re going to encourage people to take the Portland Pledge and buy all of their holiday gifts at small shops in Portland this holiday season,” Shaoul said. 

PDXSOS is even offering a badge for people who take the pledge to share on their social media pages. 

They hope that by keeping holiday shopping local this year, Portlanders can help keep the lights on in small businesses like Woonwinkel. 

A sign sits outside Woonwinkel in downtown Portland, informing passersby that the store is open. (KOIN)

“When I say squeak by, I don’t mean woohoo! Like, we turned a profit or anything like that that you would expect for a normal year for a normal business… We’re going to be able to put food on the table. We’re going to be able to pay our rent,” Woonwinkel owner Kristin Van Buskirk said when explaining what it would take to carry her business into 2021. 

Van Buskirk said she has a lot of anxiety going into the holidays and thinks a lot of store owners are just biting their nails to see how it goes. 

“Every order, every item that’s purchased really does make such a difference for little businesses like us,” Dunham, the store manager, said. 

Woonwinkel has had boards on their windows to protect them from burglaries and during the protests. They plan to take them down on Black Friday and hope it will encourage people to come in and shop for people on their gift lists. 

Dunham said she’s starting to see a re-emergence of “the good old Portland” after months of obstacles and hopes it’s a positive sign of what’s to come. 

To see the hundreds of local businesses included in PDXSOS, visit their website. 

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