Garberville business owners appeared before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to “sound the alarm bells” about a sharp drop in revenue, which they attribute to the struggle for survival in the area’s famed marijuana industry.
“I’ve personally seen a 40% drop in sales so far this year,” said Jolan Banyasz, owner of Garberville clothing store Sweet Grass Boutique. “Last month, in September, I saw a 60% drop in sales. I These losses cannot be afforded.”
Banyasz recently had to fire a seven-year employee who has since been unable to find another job in the area.
“In general, every business is not really hiring because no one is thriving,” she said. Banyasz added that she had heard from other local business owners who had been holding on to paying their bills with their savings.
Rounding out the podium was Charlotte Silverstein, who has owned and operated Garden of Beadin’, a Garberville bead shop for the past 38 years. Silverstein said mail-order deals have kept her business alive, but her income is still down 20 percent this year, and the entire town is suffering.
“I recently moved, so I was on the street and people said, ‘What do you think of your new place?’ Well,” she said, “I love this place, but then I saw what happened to Garberville. , there are a lot of homeless people and a lot of poor people out there. I think in the years since legalization, before regulators made licenses so expensive, it has bankrupted a lot of people. So now everyone is either leaving or going bankrupt.”
Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell, reached by phone Wednesday, said she agreed with the women who spoke and sympathized with fellow Garberville business owners.
“I own the biggest clothing store out there,” she said, referring to The Bootleg, “and my business has been in decline for eight months.” Sales, she said, are down about 45 percent, the company’s 41-year calendar. Worst drop in history.
Bushnell, who bought the company in 2011, said she first noticed a big drop in sales in 2016 and 2017, a period that coincided with Prop. 64, which legalized recreational marijuana. This caused great anxiety among local growers and affected the county’s economy.
“But then it bounced back,” Bushnell said. “[However], over the past eight months, things have been dire. I usually employ seven full-time employees.Now I have to reduce it to two…plus [one who works] Four hours on Sunday. “
Both Banyasz and Silverstein pointed to recent revelations by Pacific Gas and Electric that its transmission capacity in Southern Humboldt is almost at its limit, requiring about $900 million worth of upgrades to transmission lines and substations.
“[T]This will seriously impact any development in our community, as well as the problems we have in waters with outdated infrastructure,” Banyasz said.
Silverstein echoed those concerns. “You know, you’re all happy about what’s going on in northern Arcata,” she said. “You have Caltech, but in South Humboldt, we’re the first place people come, and it looks like a ghost town. How are you going to help us support it and fix it?”
Bushnell said she has spoken with the county’s economic development director, Scott Adair, and county administrator, Elicia Hayes, about the issues.
“We need to increase tourism,” she said. “Cannabis, in the toilet. It’s scary. There’s panic everywhere. But we need to curb the appeal. We really need to sell [SoHum] As the gateway to Humboldt County. “
Standing on the podium Tuesday, Banyasz told the board that she grew up in the community and would love to stay. But right now she doesn’t even know if she’ll be open early next year, and she worries other storefronts will be empty, leaving the gateway to Humboldt County “barren.”
“I want to see it flourish,” she said. “I want to see members of our community support our business. Now that the cannabis industry is collapsing, I don’t see any economic opportunity.”
Bushnell said she plans to have Adair come down and talk to local business owners so at least they know the county is paying attention.
Below is a video of Tuesday’s meeting waiting in line as Banyasz spoke. Next up is Silverstein.