Snow and blackouts are only the latest problems for Winslow merchants

Doug Tolliver, a “A Shovel 4 Hire,” escorts a Winslow shopper over an icy crosswalk on Monday. Find more photos here

Shoppers squinted and blinked as they entered Lindsleys clothing store on Monday afternoon.

Somewhere among the darkened clothing racks Tom Lindsley was voicing a welcome to them. Most customers needed a few seconds to let their eyes adjust from the glare of Winslow’s snowy streets to the dim of the unlit store.

“Right now all we have is daylight,” said Lindsley, who co-owns the 17-year-old store store with his wife. “And a few flashlights people will hopefully use.”

Lindsleys was one of many downtown shops already struggling under a sluggish economy. The winter snow storm and resulting power outage made a bad situation worse.

And while the Christmas season was anticipated as a happy ending to a tough year, many stores found the snow kept many holiday spenders at home.

“The combination of the weather and the economy really makes things messy,” Lindsley said. “It hurts a lot. Our (sales) are way down. And we’ll have to close early because it’s getting harder to see in here.”

Almost 20 people were perusing Lindsleys’ plaid shirts and wool sweaters at one point on Monday. That’s not bad, but on Sunday “hardly anybody came out,” Lindsley said.

It was worse at Hugh Remash’s shop.

“I’ve been alone here for several days,” he said, snacking on a sandwich in the tasting room used by his winery, Eagle Harbor Wine Company, and Eleven Winery.

Remash hadn’t had a single person walk though his door on Sunday or Monday.

“It’s been very bad,” he said. “With the poor economy, we were hoping the weather would be favorable and we’d be able get some cash flow.”

Remash estimates his December sales are 20 percent of what they were during the same time last year.

And that was before the storm.

Remash vowed to keep his door open even if no one walks through it.

“People buy wine during the holidays so it’s really important to stay open,” he said. “We’ll see. It might revive.”

Eagle Harbor Book Company saw a bit of a revival when it fired up its backup generator, making it one of the few Winslow shops with heat and light.

“I bought the generator six years ago, and it’s really come in handy,” said owner Morley Horder as shoppers crowded his aisles in search of last-minute gifts.

The Wildernest outdoor store was enjoying brisk sales thanks, in large part, to the storm.

“It’s been awesome,” said store manager Stephanie Moore. “Saturday was one of our biggest days since we opened in mid-September.”

Warm hats, gloves and other cold weather gear were big sellers. Crampons – boot attachments with metal and rubber treads – have disappeared from the shelves.

“We’ve sold out,” Moore said.

“And so did REI,” said a customer, holding one of the Wildernest’s last pairs of crampons. “You can’t find them anywhere.”

Moore said the storm has brought locals closer to local businesses.

“It’s forced people to shop local and stick to the island rather than going to Seattle,” she said.

It’s also forced a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit in some.

“I’m a shovel for hire,” said Doug Tolliver, who spent much of the weekend clearing snow and ice in front of downtown shops.

With much of his work done, Tolliver spent his downtime advertising his services with a cardboard sign, escorting ladies across Winslow Way and clearing crosswalks for free.

“I decided to do this because I’m unemployed,” he said after leading an elderly woman by the arm over an icy crosswalk. “Now I’ve run out of jobs, but I’m a glutton for attention.”