Esteban Carranza, the 32-year-old owner of Blissed Out Skate Shop at Carson Mall, summed up the spirit of the small business:
“It’s scary,” he said, “to take everything you have and hope it works out.”
As one of the newest companies in Carson Mall, Carranza is not alone. The mall has more than 20 stores. Most of them are corner shops. The mall also has a variety of restaurants. Together and individually, companies have prepared for the holiday shopping season, including Small Business Saturday on November 26th.
On Monday, the Appeal toured the mall with Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce, and Chelsea Lavender, the mall’s advertising director.
“It’s the oldest indoor mall in Nevada,” Lavender said, noting that the mall was built in 1972. “We are almost at 100 percent capacity.”
The mall is now decked out for the holidays, full of kaleidoscopic offerings, not only from the established store fronts, but also from the vendors at the festive craft exhibition that will run until Christmas Eve.
In recent years, it hasn’t just been holiday cheer.
“After COVID, it was just dead,” Lavender said. “There was a ghost town in here.”
In discussions with companies, one topic quickly emerged: resilience.
“We are slowly recovering from two years of COVID,” said Jo Moore, co-owner of Ogres-Holm Pottery.
The pottery shop doubles as a studio and houses 15 to 25 artists, each offering up to five pieces for sale. Moore has been 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 that they have raised up to $15,000 for FISH over the past few years. “Carson City is coming back.”
According to survey results collected by the Nevada Small Business Development Center this summer, many small businesses in the Silver State are still struggling with inflation, supply chains and other issues. It takes strength to persevere, to grow evenly.
“I’m not done with the beer game,” said Pat Duncan, a 2004 graduate of Carson High.
In July, after taking a hit with his first beer store during the pandemic, Duncan made the leap to a brick-and-mortar store in the mall. The Beer Studio showcases local beers, including those from Carson-based Shoe Tree Brewing Co.
Duncan remembered visiting the mall as a kid.
“This is my hometown,” he said. “As more and more people find out about this hidden place, they’ll come out of the woodwork.”
He said some Carson residents don’t even know the mall has an indoor space.
“(Beer) is the way to every heart,” he said. “I feel like we have a good line-up now.”
Adjacent to the Beer Studio is the Wild Horse Gallery, a seller of jewelry, antiques, and collectibles. Owner Jim Castaneda has been running an eponymous store in Virginia City for 25 years. He’s 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 one-of-a-kind.
“You can’t just order it online,” he said. “Everything I have here is different.”
Blissed Out’s Carranza 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 keep it by skateboarders for skateboarders,” Carranza said.
The skate shop has already sponsored two young skaters from Mills Park. Carranza said “joyful” describes the euphoria of landing a hard trick.
“When you skateboard, you get rid of your thoughts and you only have feelings,” he said. “We want to pass on the feeling of happiness.”
Hannaman said small businesses — those with fewer than 500 employees — define the capital’s character.
“They give you their passion and their journey,” she said.
Isabella McConnell, for example, co-owns Magical Moments with Lavender. The gift shop was a source of passion for McConnell.
“Everything is handmade by me,” she said, “down to the bows on the tree.”
Due to Lavender’s role as promo director, Magical Moments acts as a point of contact for other businesses in the mall. Lavender listed all of the upcoming holiday events: the Festival of Trees from December 1-20, a tree lighting ceremony on December 4, and story time with Santa Claus on December 4-20. She said it helps everyone get people into the mall.
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 attracting customers. Blane Cox owns the business with his wife Melissa. It’s her first business and he said he was scared when they started.
“The first thing people tell you when you start a new business is that only 50 percent of new businesses survive,” he said.
The closures during the pandemic hurt, Cox said, but they’ve been able to thrive because people still needed furniture.
“People were kind of called to their homes,” he explained.
“I don’t even want to remember those days,” Hannaman added, recalling how many small businesses suffered as a result.
Cox, who moved from California to start the company, said he is in escrow for a new home in Carson, an investment in the community.
“Support local and shop local. I live and die at it,” he said.
According to the US Small Business Administration, Small Business Saturday was founded by American Express in 2010 and has been sponsored by the SBA since 2011.
“Historically, reported projected spending by U.S. consumers shopping on Small Business Saturday at independent retailers and restaurants 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 small businesses need our support now more than ever as they navigate, adapt and adapt to 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 that Nevada’s consumer retail sales for the holiday shopping season will grow 8 percent this year to reach a record $6.5 billion,” the association said in a Nov. 16 news release.
Shopping from small businesses makes a difference, Hannaman said.
“They preserve the character of the city,” she emphasized.