Esteban Carranza, the 32-year-old owner of Blissed Out Skate Shop in the Carson Mall, summed up the spirit of small business:
“It’s scary,” he said, “taking everything you got and hoping it works out.”
Representing one of the newest businesses in the Carson Mall, Carranza is not alone. The mall has more than 20 businesses. Most of them are mom-and-pop shops. The mall also has a variety of restaurants. Together and individually, the businesses have been gearing up for the holiday shopping season including Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26.
On Monday, the Appeal toured the mall with Carson City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ronni Hannaman and Chelsea Lavender, promotions director for the mall.
Chelsea Lavender, Isabella McConnell, and Ronni Hannaman in Magical Moments at the Carson Mall on Nov. 21. (Scott Neuffer photo)
“It’s the oldest indoor mall in Nevada,” Lavender said, noting the mall was built in 1972. “We’re almost at 100 percent capacity.”
The mall is now decorated for the holidays, full of kaleidoscopic offerings not only from the established storefronts, but from vendors in the holiday craft show that will run until Christmas Eve.
It hasn’t been all holiday cheer the last few years.
“After COVID, it was just dead,” said Lavender. “It was a ghost town in here.”
Talking to businesses, one theme quickly emerged: resilience.
“We’re slowly recovering from two years of COVID,” said Jo Moore, co-owner Ogres-Holm Pottery.
Jo and Merrill Moore of Ogres-Holm Pottery on Nov. 21. (Scott Neuffer photo)
The pottery store doubles as a studio and hosts 15-25 artists, who each display up to five pieces for sale. Moore was busy with family members preparing for their Empty Bowls fundraiser on Dec. 2.
“We work closely with FISH (Friends In Service Helping),” she said, noting they’ve raised up to $15,000 for FISH in past years. “Carson City is coming back.”
According to survey results collected by the Nevada Small Business Development Center over the summer, many small businesses in the Silver State are still struggling with inflation, supply chains, and other issues. It’s taken strength to hold on, to grow even.
“I’m not done in the beer game,” said 2004 Carson High graduate Pat Duncan.
In July, after taking a hit during the pandemic with his first beer business, Duncan took the leap to a brick-and-mortar store inside the mall. The Beer Studio showcases local brews, including those of Carson-based Shoe Tree Brewing Co.
Duncan recalled visiting the mall when he was a kid.
“This is my hometown,” he said. “As more people find out about this hidden spot, they come out of the woodwork.”
He said some Carson residents don’t even know the mall has an interior space.
“(Beer) is the way to everyone’s heart,” he said. “I feel we have a good lineup now.”
Pat Duncan of The Beer Studio. (Scott Neuffer photo)
Next door to the Beer Studio is Wild Horse Gallery, seller of jewelry, antiques, and collectibles. Owner Jim Castaneda has run a shop by the same name in Virginia City for 25 years. He has been at the Carson Mall for more than five years.
“We have our own customers, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
He said the store’s jewelry is unique.
“You can’t just order it online,” he said. “Everything I have in here is different.”
Carranza from Blissed Out is also trying to offer something unique. The shop specializes in skateboards and accessories from skater-owned companies. They offer skate shoes made from vegan materials.
“We’re just making sure we’re keeping it by skateboarders for skateboarders,” Carranza said.
The skate shop has already sponsored two young skaters from Mills Park. Carranza said “blissed out” describes the euphoria of landing a tough trick.
“When you hit the skateboard, you get rid of thoughts and only have feelings,” he said. “We want to pass on what it feels like to be blissed out.”
Hannaman said small businesses – those with fewer than 500 employees – make up the character of the capital city.
“They’re giving you their passion and their journey,” she said.
Jim Castaneda of Wild Horse Gallery. (Scott Neuffer photo)
Isabella McConnell, for example, co-owns Magical Moments with Lavender. The giftshop has been a source of passion for McConnell.
“Everything is handmade by me,” she said, “down to the bows on the tree.”
Because of Lavender’s role as promo director, Magical Moments acts as a touchpoint for other businesses in the mall. Lavender listed all the holiday events coming up: the Festival of Trees running Dec. 1-20, a tree lighting Dec. 4, and story time with Santa Dec. 4 and Dec. 20. She said bringing people out to the mall helps everyone.
Carson Home Furnishings is no small part of that. The 20-employee operation has both a main store and an outlet store in the mall, anchoring the north and south sides and bringing in customers. Blane Cox owns the business with his wife, Melissa. It’s their first business, and he said he was scared when they started out.
“When you first start a new business, the first thing people tell you is only 50 percent of new businesses survive,” he said.
The shutdown during the pandemic hurt, Cox said, but they were able to thrive because people still needed furniture.
“People were kind of summoned to their homes,” he explained.
“I don’t even want to remember those days,” Hannaman added, recalling how many small businesses suffered.
Cox, who moved from California to start the venture, said he’s in escrow on a new house in Carson, an investment in the community.
“Support local and shop local. I live and die by that,” he said.
Blane Cox of Carson Home Furnishings. (Scott Neuffer photo)
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Saturday was founded by American Express in 2010 and has been cosponsored by the SBA since 2011.
“Historically, reported projected spending among U.S. consumers who shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday reached an estimated $23.3 billion according to the 2021 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey commissioned by American Express,” the SBA website says. “This year, we know that small businesses need our support now more than ever as they navigate, retool, and pivot from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”
According to the Retail Association of Nevada, an estimated 1.7 million Nevadans will shop over the holiday weekend.
“RAN forecasts Nevada’s consumer retail sales for the holiday shopping season to grow by 8 percent this year to reach a record $6.5 billion,” the association said in a Nov. 16 press release.
Shopping at small businesses makes a difference, Hannaman said.
“You’re keeping the character of the city,” she emphasized.
For information about Carson Mall, find ShopCarsonMall on Facebook or visit at 1313 S. Carson St.
VIRGINIA CITY OFFERS HOLIDAY EVENTS
Carson City is not the only town looking for a business boost this holiday season. Organizers of “Christmas on the Comstock” hope to draw visitors and customers into historic Virginia City’s business districts.
“Coming up to Virginia City to Christmas shop is a whole experience in itself, and we encourage folks to make a day of it and take part in some of the events and activities going on throughout the month of December,” said Leah Kruse, acting manager for Virginia City Tourism Commission.
Kruse said the city has a variety of artisans such as jewelers and hat-makers.
“All of our shops here are mom-and-pop shops, and they really rely on the support of the surrounding communities to get them through the slower winter season, so shopping here is not only fun, but it’s supporting our town and our community at the same time,” Kruse said.
To this end, many events are scheduled in Virginia City throughout December. Visit VisitVirginiaCityNV.com for a complete calendar, or call 775-847-7500.
Believe Again – A Christmas Shopping Giveaway
Support small businesses by completing holiday shopping at Virginia City’s unique and boutique stores. Stay the night, eat at a restaurant, and be entered to win one of 10 $100 gifts. Visitors can bring receipts to the Visitors Center and receive a raffle ticket for every $10 spent in town. Ten winners will be selected to each receive $100 to spend in Virginia City. Shop between Dec. 1-18. Winners announced Dec. 19. Visitor Center hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Holiday Decorating Contest
Visitors can vote for their favorite storefront decorations online at VisitVirginiaCityNV.com.
The Grinch Made Me Do It Saloon Crawl
Dec. 3, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Get spirited at the Grinch Made Me Do It Saloon Crawl with specialty holiday drinks at featured locations. For tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/grinch-made-me-do-it-saloon-crawl-tickets-223656621977.
Parade of Lights
Dec. 3 and Dec. 10, 5 p.m.
The holiday spirit travels through the historic town lighting up the streets and shops along the way with the annual Parade of Lights.
Magical Christmas Fireworks Show
Dec. 3 and 10, 6 p.m.
The fireworks take place following the Parade of Lights.
V&T Candy Cane Express and Train O’Lights
Nov. 25-26, Dec. 2-4, Dec. 9-11 and Dec. 16-18
Trains depart from the Virginia City depot and the narrated, round-trip ride lasts about 40 minutes. Reserve seats in advance https://www.virginiatruckee.com/.
Official Christmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 2, 6 p.m.
Virginia City rings in the holiday season with the official Virginia City Christmas Tree Lighting, taking place at the Bucket of Blood parking lot located at the corner of C and Union streets.
St. Mary’s Art Center 8th annual Holiday Faire
Dec. 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
St. Mary’s Art Center offers a holiday shopping experience with over 20 local and regional artists and makers sharing and selling their creations in a decorated, music-filled space. This is the perfect shopping opportunity to give unique gifts while also supporting artists and artisans. Free admission.
Home for Christmas Concert featuring Glen and Molly of Lady an the Tramps
Dec. 3, 7 p.m.
Bring the whole family to this holiday concert at Piper’s Opera House featuring Glen and Molly of Lady an the Tramps with special guest appearances by David John and others. The concert is sponsored by the 601s.
Christmas on the Comstock with Lacy J. Dalton
Dec. 18, 7 p.m.
Lacy J. Dalton and Dale Poune celebrate the holiday season with their annual Red Dog Saloon Christmas Show. Find tickets at https://happeningnext.com/event/christmas-on-the-comstock-with-lacy-j-dalton-2022-eid4snxuwro8j1.