Merchants on and off hill vie for Tahoe dollars |

Merchants on and off hill vie for Tahoe dollars

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / With Samuel, 3, pointing the way to her car, Tina Zahir leaves Kmart along with her daughter Fiza, 9 months. Zahir said she began Christmas shopping a couple months ago, but also bought a few gifts Thursday morning.

The competition for the holiday dollar gets steeper and steeper every year for South Shore retailers.

One need only look at a Carson Valley parking lot filled with California license plates to know where shoppers are going.

And some Nevada retailers have started to quantify the impact of the Tahoe shopper on the prowl.

Don Johnson, manager of the Best Buy that opened in the Carson Valley late last year, calculated about a quarter of his business comes from the lake.

“Tahoe customers are really in the high-end audio video home theaters. It’s the higher end product that fits the lifestyle,” Johnson said.

He theorized that his store does really well when the weather is bad. People tend to think of ways to cocoon when the snow blows them indoors.

Costco Carson City membership manager Lori Kastner estimates 15 to 18 percent of her business comes from the basin.

“On top of that, we get numerous phone calls from the lake. They don’t want to drive all the way down here and find out we don’t have something,” she said.

That’s the reason the community plan for the ‘Y’ is so important, said South Lake Tahoe City Manager Dave Jinkens.

“We need to attract new commercial here so that people won’t go out of state,” Jinkins said.

The framework for the west gate area of the city, which is now in its visionary stage, will be a major goal of the economic director the city plans to hire.

Keeping locals in the mountains to shop is also a work in progress for merchants here.

Mark Gandt, who runs Tahoe Sports Ltd. and Tahoe Trading Post, both at the Village Center, said it helps to carry premium brands and have a vast inventory at his fingertips.

Opening a $1,700 gas barbecue as an example, Gandt carries a montage of varied merchandise at Tahoe Trading Post – which is designed to emulate a country store in a rural area.

When he runs out of something, he taps into the Woodland warehouse for the 6,600-store Tru Value network.

“It helps small stores like mine compete. I get deliveries once a week at least,” he said.

He also mentioned the variety in the merchandiser mix as contributing to the success of the Village Center, a $20 million shopping plaza.

A few shops were open on Thanksgiving, including his and Neighbors Bookstore.

At Heavenly Village, all shops were open on Thanksgiving and merchants were eager to help customers get a jump on holiday shopping.

“We get mostly tourists here, so we have to be open at a time like this. We try to get all the business we can,” Gary Angelica co-manager Nicole Saperstin said Thursday.

Few stores were open near the “Y” area.

From high- to low-end merchandise, South Lake Tahoe retailers know they have their work cut out for them and use every advantage possible.

Like Neighbors Bookstore, Blockbuster video relies on the convenience to consumers of buying in their back yard. By the time someone pays $2 less for that CD or DVD in the Carson Valley, they’re likely to spend more in gasoline.

“With our prices, I don’t know how they compete here. But I know a lot of locals don’t want to go down there. I think it’s a convenience thing,” said Jazmyne Suyoan, a Blockbuster worker.

Plus, don’t forget the importance of the impulse buy.

Some consumers come in to rent a video or DVD and end up buying it because they may want to see it again and again, she added.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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