Many of the shoppers in downtown Lewiston on Saturday were there because it was Small Business Saturday and they wanted to support local retailers during a challenging time.

Beautiful Downtown Lewiston produced a Holiday Shopping Guide to entice shoppers to visit downtown.

“We specifically came downtown to see what we could do to support local business,” Linn Wheeling, of Clarkston, said. “We grew up around here and it’s amazing to us. It’s been a trip down memory lane.”

Wheeling was shopping with Sherry Peterson, of Clarkston. The two had already been to Sylvan Furniture and the Diamond Shop and planned to continue shopping downtown.

“It’s quite disheartening that there are so many empty storefronts, but we will do what we can do to keep this community alive,” Wheeling said.

The pandemic has been hard on businesses around the country, said Bill Lee, a retiree who works at Paulucci’s Men’s and Formal Wear on Main Street.

“It’s has been extremely hard,” Lee said. “COVID-19 has just knocked us to hell and gone.”

Because of the pandemic, the business that sells and rents formal wear missed out on the spring prom season and the fall homecoming business. They still have business from weddings and clothing rentals from men seeking a suit for a job interview, Lee said. They carry black and gray suits in the store on Main Street.

Since the pandemic, though, Saturdays have been quiet at the store that normally had good business on Saturdays. They cut back the hours of operation on Saturday because of the lack of business. Now the store is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day.

The store is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“(COVID-19) has screwed up the American economy six ways to Sunday,” Lee said. “It’s an absolute disaster downtown.”

Judy Moeckli went downtown Saturday with her daughter, Jean Moeckli, and daughter-in-law, Jamie Moeckli.

“We decided to come downtown,” Judy Moeckli said. “It’s important to support the small businesses. The places that are open are good, but there are a lot of empty spaces for other businesses to come in.”

Her daughters agreed with her.

“We need to keep our money local,” Jamie Moeckli said.

“Maybe everything will start coming down here because (J.C.) Penney’s and Macy’s pulled out,” Judy Moeckli said. “I’ve been down here, but not a lot. It just seemed like the right thing to do today.”

Tim Howard is the showroom manager at Main Street Lighting. The pandemic has hurt business and it’s down about 25-30 percent for this time of year, which for a lighting store, having shorter days are when the lighting business normally picks up.

“Typically, this time of year gets really busy for us as people realize they need more or better lighting when it starts to get dark early,” Howard said. “It’s been pretty decent today, about 12:30 business starts picking up, you can tell a difference in this year and previous years but it is not as horrible as we thought it would be.”

There is still good business from new construction and remodeling that has helped Main Street Lighting navigate the pandemic economy.

Chantilly Whittum, who lives in Spokane but is from Lewiston, came home for the holidays. She specifically came downtown to shop on Small Business Saturday, rather than on Black Friday.

“I feel like, even though it takes a little extra effort to go shopping right now, people need to make that extra effort for their communities,”Whittum said.

Business has been slightly down this year at Catkin, according to owner Liz Coleman.

With the local rise in COVID-19 cases, business was down considerably from Halloween until this week.

“But fortunately, this week it has picked up immensely; we had a great Black Friday,” Coleman said. “It’s been so lovely to see our regular people again.”

Small Business Saturday and Black Friday are very important for the clothing and lifestyle boutique business.

“This is our big weekend that really sets the tone for the rest of the holiday season,” Coleman said.

Bob, Julie and Dean Ritz made Small Business Saturday a family affair. Julie Ritz spearheaded the journey downtown. They shop downtown three or four times a year. They came Saturday to show support and get in some Christmas shopping.

Because of COVID-19, they have been shopping more online, but they also have not been buying a lot, Julie Ritz said.

“This year has been more about appreciating what we have,” Dean Ritz said.

They planned to go to the Diamond Shop and Newberry Square.

“We’re going to walk up and down Main Street and see what’s happening,” Bob Ritz said.

Art Uncorked Downtown would normally have an art show on Small Business Saturday, but because of the pandemic, owner Myndie VanHorn did not want to encourage a large gathering of people. Instead, the business will rely on projects to go and its ceramics.

As the pandemic was looming, the business closed down before Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued any pandemic orders, VanHorn said. The business focused on its online presence and offerings.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of parents needing to do something with their children,” VanHorn said.

Business this year has been up and down, VanHorn said, motioning her arms like a roller coaster. Her store moved to a new, smaller location at Suite 240 in Towne Square on Main Street in October. The move helped out financially.

Once Lewiston opened back up this summer, business slowed down, Van Horn said.

The business has curbside pickup and is offering free deliveries on orders more than $50 during the holidays. The delivery is no-contact because of the pandemic.

Across the street and to the east, at Ampersand Oil and Vinegar Taphouse, business was brisk Saturday. Aisles were full of customers at the store, which moved to its current location last January before the pandemic hit.

“We had no idea what to expect yesterday and today,” general manager Kaitlin Moody said. “We have had a lot of people turn out and online, too.”

After the outbreak, the business canceled its classes, but it was able to flip what it did during the pandemic and business has been good. The online traffic has allowed customers to send gifts to friends and family across the country.

“Our online business started going off — it took off this summer,” Moody said. “The community has really stepped up.”

Downtown restaurants also were open for Small Business Saturday. Main Street Grill general manager Robbie Romanoff said that the morning started off slowly, but the lunch traffic really picked up.

“This has definitely been a different year,” Romanoff said. “It’s slower, but I want to say it’s been successful. We take what we get.”

Small Business Saturday increases foot traffic downtown, which helps out restaurants and businesses downtown, he said.

Wells may be contacted at mwells@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2275