Local business owners in Malheur County brace for impact after shutdown

Vintage Rose in Ontario will close up shop until Gov. Kate Brown’s order is lifted. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

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ONTARIO – The past year for Tracy Hammond’s Ontario business has been great. 

Fabulous, in fact. 

For close to four years, Hammond has owned Vintage Rose, a home goods store that sells antiques and refurbished furniture. She hosts craft classes there a couple times a week.

At Christmastime, she put on Frosty Fest – like she’s done for years now – in downtown. Hammond herself was dressed up as Frosty the snowman.

But now, just three months later, she is bracing for impact.

“If we close for two weeks I’ll be fine,” she said. “If we close for two months, I’ll be $7,500 to $10,000 in debt.” 

It’s not that she doesn’t agree with Gov. Kate Brown’s order that businesses such as hers have to close. The governor issued the order to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in Oregon. 

Hammond knows that’s important. In fact she shut her doors on Saturday, ahead of the official call.

But she’s scared. 

She’s not the only one. 

Inside Vintage Rose, 24 local vendors sell their wares – six of them dropped out on Saturday, teling Hammond they were frightened for the future and they wouldn’t be able to continue chipping in rent. 

Hammond understands. But she has to keep moving. She did her crying when news broke of the impending closure. But then she applied for jobs at Walmart, where she previously worked red-eye shifts for two years while she was getting Vintage Rose off the ground.

“I know everyone says they’ll let you make payments,” Hammond said Monday. “But you can’t drop your insurance, your water bill, your Wifi. All that, whether you use it or not you still have to pay it.”

Her biggest fear is a closure that goes on for too long and leaves her further behind each month. 

The economy is not going to exist as it has been unless we get through this fast, Hammond said.

She will shift to online sales in the meantime. In a stroke of good timing, she recently set up www.vintagerose.us.

“But who has money to spend if they’re all staying home and not working?” she asked. 

Still, she has no intention of closing entirely. In check-ins with her vendors, she urged them to keep creating “so when we open we can throw a big party and let people know we’re still here.” 

Hammond owned Luzetta’s Flowers in Vale for 16 years before dabbling in the restaurant business. But crafting is her life, she said resolutely. 

As for her business, she lives and breathes it. 

“This is something I really enjoy. I love it. I love the people, I love the ladies I craft with,” Hammond said. She loves the process of making something like an old piece of wood come to life. 

“Some of the vendors are my best friends,” she added. “We’re one big humongous family.”

Hammond teared up on the phone Monday when she shared a story of customers who popped in to buy $100 gift certificates to help her business survive.

“I have every intention of being back,” Hammond said. 

Thinking of the many odds and ends and crafts that crowd every inch of her shop, she sniffled and laughed a little, “I’d hate to have to clean out that building.”

Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377

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