May 6, 2007
Retailers look beyond Bellingham; As retail expands in the county, merchants offer a word to the wise: Give it time and have theBy Dave

Karla and Santos Garza are learning how tough the retail industry can be.

The Garzas own Rocks & Things Gift Shop and Mail Drop in two buildings on Portal Way in Ferndale. They’ve operated the gift store for about six months and the mail services business for about two months. Sales at the gift store were strong during the holiday season but have slowed down in the first few months of this year.

“This is our first time owning a business, and we’re adjusting to what is happening,” said Karla Garza. “One of the biggest challenges is getting people to know we’re here. We have the customers who stopped in during the holidays and they’ve been great about telling others, but a gift is not something people need to buy every day. Even though we’re on a busy road, it’s a challenge getting people to stop in.”

Being outside Whatcom County’s retail center, which is Bellingham, also makes it difficult to succeed, she said. When choosing a place to open a business, they chose the north Ferndale area because they wanted to build a base of county customers who would prefer not to drive into Bellingham.

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