Local retailers post gain in 2002
Today's economy seems to have sparked a do-it-yourself trend that is helping at least one area business.
Charlie Ussery, owner of Himpel Lumber and Building Center, said that despite the nation's widespread economic woes, his 2002 sales registered a 16 percent spike.
According to the Kansas Department of Revenue, Tonganoxie's 2002 retail sales increased 6.8 percent from 2001, totaling $32.3 million, while the county's sales increased 3.9 percent, leveling out at $476 million.
The lumber yard's increase in sales reflects a growth in the number of customers, Ussery said.
"The last time we looked at our customer count, we estimated we're having about 25 to 30 new customers per day," said Ussery, who last month completed a store expansion and renovation project.
"So we're seeing lots and lots of people this year, and a lot of small projects that more homeowners are doing themselves," Ussery said. "Sales are up, customer counts are up."
Don Pelzl, owner of Tonganoxie's Do It Best store for 22 years, said his downtown business fared "just average" in 2002.
"We weren't up any," Pelzl said. "It's a little too early to tell for sure."
Pelzl said his buyers were more conservative this year, especially during the Christmas-shopping season.
"I think people were spending less money than they have in years past," Pelzl said.
He said that didn't come as a surprise.
"I thought, considering the economy, that we did all right," Pelzl said.
At B&J Country Mart, there seems to be an ever-increasing number of customers walking in the door. But manager Eric Gambrill said 2002 sales held close to 2001.
In Leavenworth, Danny Zeck, manger of Rusty Eck Ford, said sales dropped 11 percent in 2002.
"I didn't feel that was real bad because it was one of those years that was up and down, up and down," Zeck said.
Part of the hit came from a decrease in fleet sales to car rental agencies, he noted.
"Rental car companies took a dip in sales last year because there are less people flying," Zeck said.
In Tonganoxie, Kathy Bard, assistant to the city administrator, said B&J Country Mart is the city's largest producer of sales tax. Tonganoxie businesses generated a total of $323,433 in sales tax for 2002.
"Most of the sales tax comes from the grocery store and the car sales," Bard said. "When the Ford dealership went out of business we took a big hit, but then Frank's used car sales came right behind it and that helped a lot."