A collective sigh of relief washed over Astoria this week with the arrival of spring, signaling a change of the season and the start of more lucrative months for local merchants.
Retailers expressed satisfaction that the winter season was officially over and showed eagerness to begin preparation for busier days ahead.
On Sunday, Table 360 Bakery & Bistro owner Taz Davis cut a Danish pastry and coffee cake into bite-sized pieces before doling them out to people passing his bakery on Commercial Street.
It was the warmest day in weeks and Davis wasn’t wasting the opportunity to get outside and experience what he had been missing all winter.
“It was a mean winter,” Davis said. “Cookies paid the rent.”
It was only the second winter in business for the downtown bakery and bistro, but a memorable one.
“In mid-January it felt like it was at the end then it came roaring back,” Davis said. “We had snow in February and March and we don’t usually have that there.”
As spring temperatures rise, so will business for the bakery.
“Spring break is next week, so it will come on full force,” Davis said. “From Easter through the end of summer sales are strong.”
Davis estimated that 70 percent of the sales occur in the spring and summer before a precipitous drop in the fall.
“From October to February it’s only about 30 percent, mostly around the holidays,” he said.
Sales for bread, pastries, croissants and cinnamon rolls will be begin to surge in April and May, with the start of the cruise ship season and the Astoria Sunday Market, where he has a booth.
“We get the market crowd and we get a lot of traffic from the cruise ships as well,” Davis said.
The bakery will soon adopt new hours to accommodate the increased demand by opening an hour earlier and closing an hour later than normal.
“This being our second year, it’s going to be interesting to see how it ramps up,” Davis said. “The downtown is revitalizing. We have a lot of new people coming in and it’s good for Astoria.”
Slower winter sales are expected, said Suzy Olsen, owner of Chariot, a housewares store and interior design studio on Commercial. But this winter wasn’t as bad as others for Olsen’s downtown store.
“We had more sunny days and not the crazy winter storms, so that brought more people out on the weekends,” Olsen said, comparing this year to the winter of 2017, when it rained a record 167 days straight.
Mild weather around Christmas equated to more foot traffic and a 30 percent sales boost compared to previous years, Olsen said.
While the weather is often unpredictable, scheduled events can have a positive impact on sales. The FisherPoets Gathering, held in late February, brought an unexpected boost in business during an otherwise slow weekend. The spring season and warmer weather will undoubtedly bring new opportunities.
“When there’s a wedding or two in town, that’s the best,” Olsen said.
Approaching her fourth year in business, Doe & Arrow owner Chelsea Johnsen said the slow season has been less severe each year for the new and vintage clothing and accessories store.
“Usually before, I would feel it in October and November — they were hard months — but this year we really didn’t hit a pause until the new year,” Johnsen said. “It didn’t get really slow until the end of January into February, then it started picking back up in March.”
Located at the corner of 14th and Duane streets, Johnsen said increased familiarity with the store has spawned more local customers and made the business less reliant on random foot traffic, which can vary greatly depending on the day and weather.
“I’m looking forward to warmer weather and having my door open more,” Johnsen said. “There’s a new energy when the sun is out.”