BI businesses regroup

The bad news is that the economic fallout from the September terrorist attacks definitely reached Bainbridge Island.

The good news is that for the most part, the effect seem to be dissipating.

“There was literally nothing for a few days,” said Sally Loomis of Loomis Travel. “We were busy refunding and reaccomodating people.”

Next, Loomis said, the “have-to” travelers reappeared.

When the leisure travelers reappeared, they displayed a distinctive pattern.

“People are trying to get out of here to relieve some stress,” she said. “We are active in Hawaii and Mexico, and for golf vacations in Arizona -- warm places.”

Most recently, Loomis said, travelers are starting to look at Europe, taking advaniage of very low air fares.

A similar report came from The Traveler, the Winslow Way travel accessories store.

“It hasn’t affected us as much as we had feared,” said a store salesman, who had to take another call before he could give his name. “The frequent travelers we see are not changing their habits that much.”

The story is the same on the “home front,” as local realtors are seeing a resumption in activity.

“Nobody was moving the first two or three weeks after the events, but now they’re back out looking” said Georg Syvertsen of Deschamps Realty & Associates.

Syvertsen said that normally, 21 percent of the homes for sale on the island will sell in a month. In September, he said, only 17 percent of the island’s inventory sold.

“That’s not much of a change,” he said. He attributed the modesty of the drop to “people in the pipeline” in September -- those who had sold their homes and needed to find someplace to live.

“We had a pretty slow time for two to three weeks,” said Barbara Crabtree, broker at the Bainbridge Island office of John L. Scott.

“People were looking, but not committing,” she said. “It seems to be picking up now, though, as people are trying to get settled before the holidays.”

Sellers of big-ticket items also saw a slowdown, followed by a rebound.

“People were coming in right after saying ‘there’s so much going on in my head I really can’t think,’”said Keith Edgar of Mandarin, which sells Oriental antiques.

But he said the number of orders in process before the attacks cushioned the impact, and he says business has begun to pick up again.

The report is less uniform on the island’s always volatile restaurant scene.

“It just died after September 11,” said Sara Parrish, owner of the Madrona Way Cafe, who said that business dropped off immediately and has not come back.

Still, it could be worse. The upscale Moonfish restaurant in Lynwood Center closed its doors earlier this month, leaving only a recorded message citing “economic conditions” as the reason for closing

The smaller the item, the smaller the impact, it seems. Andrea Ragin said her shoe business at Magnolia’s on Madison dropped for only three or four days.

According to Linda Allen, owner of Fox Paw, the mix of merchandise sold in the immediate wake of the attack changed more than the quantity.

“Everyone was looking for comfort, and people who sold merchandise associated with that feeling did well,” she said. “In the first few days, we mostly sold chocolates, music and books.”

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