ESCANABA - Despite a disappointing holiday season for retailers nationwide, many local businesses reported above average holiday sales and a flurry of happy customers.
"The 24th was fabulous - I didn't get out of here until 12, but it was worth it," said Judy DeCaire, manager of The Morrison Shop. "It would have been better without that snow storm," she added.
Vicious storms that struck the nation this year are believed to be responsible for lower sales in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic - a region which accounts for 24 percent of retail sales nationwide - but some local businesses relished the winter weather.
"We need snow for the people to come out shopping. People around here are just used to snow, and if there's no snow, it's not Christmas," said Judi Schwalbach, owner of Victorian Gift House.
Even though Victorian Gift House had to close early on Dec. 20 due to high winds, business for the store was up by about 40 percent for the holiday season.
"It seems like people shop more when the weather is bad," said Schwalbach.
The weather wasn't the only thing promoting business.
"Part of it was because of the downtown business people pulling in together and bringing people down here," said Schwalbach.
Other businesses agree that programs - such as businesses agreeing to stay open until 9 p.m. on Dec. 21 - made the downtown a hub for local shopping.
"We literally had people thanking us for being open longer and for asking people to shop locally," said Peggy O'Connell Schumann, owner of Positively! The Center for Success.
Schumann believes it is important to make the downtown central to the community.
"All these people talk about how the downtown used to be. They say 'oh when I was a kid,' but what they forget is that what their children and their grandchildren are experiencing now are going to be the memories they have. So we're trying to help make those hometown memories," she said.
Businesses also reported local shoppers were in higher spirits than in past years.
"We didn't have anybody come in crabby. Everybody was in a good mood and it was noticeable," said Schwalbach, who added holiday customers can easily become frustrated when businesses only have small staffs available to serve them.
Schumann was also pleased with shoppers. "I was so happy with the community response," she said. "Seriously, I'm honored that people trusted us with their gift-giving."
The big-box stores located away from the downtown also experienced a good season - with few returns.
"We're waiting for the big boom," Kmart store manager Theresa Prosen told the Daily Press while waiting for returns on Dec. 26.
"(Tuesday is) a weird day to have Christmas on, so people went back to work today - maybe after they get off work (we'll have returns). We'll just have to wait and see," she added.