Whitman County small business owners are remaining hopeful for a successful holiday shopping season despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pam Dabolt, owner of Palouse Country Candy in Pullman, said she is hopeful the next month will be busy because people still want to give gifts to others.

This is usually the busiest time of year for her store, as products like boxes of chocolates and soft peanut brittle become popular gift items.

However, Dabolt said the lack of college students remaining in Pullman between Thanksgiving and Washington State University’s winter break will likely affect her sales.

“Since there won’t be any students around, I will be probably missing that part of the business,” she said.

So far, though, the locals have stepped up to support Palouse Country Candy during a challenging year. She said that support has kept her open, and she is grateful for that.

“Probably like a lot of business, I am surviving, I’m not thriving,” she said. “I’m still open. I’m grateful and thankful for that, but has it been a good year? No. Plain and simple, no.”

Dabolt said she has received grant money from the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association that she plans to spend toward expanding her website.

She has a strong following on Facebook, which is helpful because advertising is expensive, especially during a year like this, she said.

Mark Johnson, who has owned Tick Klock Drug in Colfax for 34 years, said despite a spring slowdown in sales for the store’s gifts and apparel section, business has picked back up.

He said the public is conscientious of the challenges small businesses are facing and they want to support them

Like Palouse Country Candy, the holiday season is the best time of year for the Tick Klock Drug’s retail section. Johnson said they held a holiday open house earlier this month and it “went over really well.”

He is optimistic about having a solid holiday season while the store continues to follow Washington state mask and social distancing mandates.

“I’m looking at it with a positive viewpoint,” he said.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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