Shops in East Multnomah County go extra mile to share experience not found online.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - Dan Higginson, manager of the Foxtrot Vintage antique store in downtown Gresham, said the holiday season is particularly vibrant for the 15 vendors whose booths are packed with vintage and hard-to-find items from decades past. In late November, the flow of shoppers through the Foxtrot Vintage antique store in downtown Gresham was, to manager and vendor Dan Higginson, notably slow as the Christmas holiday loomed.

With better shopping weather prevailing compared to this time last year, the less-than-encouraging trend was worrisome — until suddenly it wasn't.

"People started buying earlier last year," he said on the Thursday evening before Christmas day. "We were like, 'Where are the sales?' Then it blew up like crazy after that. So far this December, we're doing well."

It's a fairly common story this holiday season among local merchants in East Multnomah County. Despite increasing competition from online shopping options and the East Wind fiercely bearing down for several days, merchants in Gresham and Troutdale shared positive tales of traffic and sales.

Higginson, one of the 15 vendors at Foxtrot who curate and sell a staggering variety of merchandise — mid-20th century home accessories and appliances "shabby chic" accessories like disco-era lamps, Star Wars memorabilia, you name it — calls the weeks leading up to Christmas the store's "power sell month."

"Vendors fill in their spaces more, and lower some of their prices," he said. "We even have a wish list. If you don't see what you're looking for, write it down and we'll call you up when it comes in."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - Cat Briehl and Nora Strand came from the Ridgefield, Wash., area to check out holiday-themed gift ideas at Celebrate Me Home in downtown Troutdale on Wednesday, Dec. 20.  Mary Greenslade, owner of Celebrate Me Home, a home accessories and furnishings emporium in downtown Troutdale, said her furniture sales slowed a bit when Interstate 84 shut down during last fall's Eagle Creek Fire but things perked up again as the holiday shopping season commenced in late November.

"We've felt some good energy," she said. "People are glad the holidays are here. The world is so crazy these days, I think people feel like they should hunker down and be with family."

The warmly enveloping atmosphere of Celebrate Me Home's three levels, which includes a cafe, reinforces the appeal of in-person shopping.

"We give people an experience they can't get online. It's reassuring to me," she said. "Here we are selling many things people could find online. We seem to provide inspiration to people."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - The basement of the Troutdale General Store becomes a virtual winter wonderland courtesy of co-owner Jodi Smoke, who transforms the space every holiday season. Next door to Greenslade's business, Troutdale General Store was doing brisk business with its seemingly endless array of Christmas-themed gifts, decorations and stocking stuffers. Compared to this time last year, when pre-winter storms coated roads and sidewalks with snow and ice, shoppers are flowing freely.

"This is probably the best year I can remember," said owner Terry Smoke of his 20 years in business. "A lot of people come here to get in the (Christmas) spirit."

The store's regulars come from all over the greater Portland area, and in some cases, well beyond.

"We have a lot of things you don't get at a big box store," he said. "We bring people in from all over. There's a couple that flies in from Florida. They say they wouldn't (holiday shop) anywhere else."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - Sandy resident Kim Young chats with Accent on Attitude store owner Judy Wylie while purchasing gifts the week before Christmas Day. Wylie said the last couple of holiday shopping seasons have been strong in downtown Gresham. Judy Wylie, owner of Accent On Attitude in downtown Gresham, echoed Smoke's assessment that this Christmas shopping season has been livelier than usual.

"This is our best year ever," she said of the store she's owned since 2005. "We're having a great year with lots of traffic and lots of customers."

Wylie's store on Northwest Second Street is packed to the brim with handbags and accessories including earrings and jewelry, scarves, scented candles and whimsical items such as Poo-Pourri, designed to keep your — and others' — bathrooms smelling fresh as daisies.

"We always listen to what people want," she said.

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