Garberville business owners appeared before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Tuesday to “sound the alarm” about the sharp decline in revenue, a drop they have attributed to existential struggles in the region’s famed cannabis industry.
“I have personally seen a 40 percent year-to-date decrease in sales,” said Jolan Banyasz, owner of Garberville clothing store Sweet Grass Boutique. “Last month, September, I saw a 60 percent drop in sales. I can’t work at these losses.”
Baniyas recently had to let go of a seven-year-old employee who has since been unable to find another job in the area.
“Across the board, not every company is really hiring because nobody is thriving,” she said. Banias added that she has heard from other local business owners who are clinging by a thread, paying the bills from their savings.
She was followed on the podium by Charlotte Silverstein, who has owned and operated the Garberville bead shop Garden of Beadin for the past 38 years. Silverstein said mail-order transactions are keeping her business alive, but its revenue is still down 20 percent this year and the entire city is suffering.
“I moved recently, so I’m at street level, and people say, ‘How do you like your new place? ‘ Well, she said, ‘I love the place, but then I can see what’s going on in Garberville, and it’s a lot of homeless and a lot of poor. I feel for years since legalization, before the moderators made the price of permits too expensive, it bankrupted a lot of people. So now either everyone is leaving or they are bankrupt.”
Called by phone Wednesday, Michelle Bushnell, the Superintendent of District Two, said she agreed with the women who spoke out and sympathized as an associate business owner in Garberville.
“I own the biggest clothing store out there, and my business, for eight months, has been in decline,” she said, referring to The Bootleg. It said sales fell about 45 percent, the worst drop in the company’s 41-year history.
Bushnell bought the company in 2011, and said the first time it noticed a significant drop in sales was in 2016 and 2017, a period associated with the passage of the .64 Prop, which legalized recreational cannabis. This caused a lot of anxiety among the local farmers, affecting the county’s economy.
“But then it bounced back,” Bushnell said. “[However]For the past eight months, the situation has been terrible. I usually use seven people full time. Now I had to go down to two… plus [one who works] Four hours on Sunday.
Banias and Silverstein mentioned the latest discovery from Pacific Gas & Electric It almost reached the limits of its ability to transmit electricity Across South Humboldt, with transmission lines and substations in need of upgrades worth $900 million.
“[T]“It will severely affect any development in our society, besides the problems we face in water areas with outdated infrastructure,” Banias said.
Silverstein echoed those concerns. “You know, you’re all happy with what’s going on up north in the Arcata,” she said. “You have Cal Polly, but here in South Humboldt, we are where people come first and it will look like a ghost town. How will you help us support and fix this?”
Bushnell said she has spoken about these issues with the county’s director of economic development, Scott Adair, as well as county administrative officer Alicia Hayes.
“We need to raise the level of tourism,” she said. “Cannabis, it’s in the toilet. It’s terrible. There’s panic across the board. But we need to curb appeal. We really need to sell.” [SoHum] as the gateway to Humboldt County.”
Baniyas stood on the podium on Tuesday, telling the council she had grown up in the community and wanted to stay. But for now she doesn’t know if she’ll be in business by the start of next year, and she fears other storefronts will be empty as well, leaving the Humboldt County gateway “barren”.
“I want to see her thriving,” she said. “I want to see members of our community able to support our business. I don’t see any economic opportunities now that the cannabis industry is down.”
Bushnell said she plans to drop Adair to speak with local business owners so they at least know the county cares.
Below is a video of Tuesday’s meeting queued until the time Banias speaks. Silverstein followed suit.