Hood River businesses hurting from Eagle Creek Fire

I-84 closure has hurt businesses in Hood River

Inside the Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room in Hood River, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)
Inside the Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room in Hood River, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) — Since the Eagle Creek Fire erupted September 2, Hood River business owners say it’s been like a ghost town. Not only are they worried about their homes but they’re now worried about their businesses.

Melika, a store in downtown Hood River that sells women’s active wear and swimwear, has seen business fall 30% to 40% since the fire began. Instead of having 2 people working right now, the owner has only one.

Melissa Tokstad, the owner of Melika's in Hood River, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)
Melissa Tokstad, the owner of Melika’s in Hood River, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)

Melika owner Melissa Tokstad said people often complain about finding a place to park. Not now.

“It’s pretty easy these days, sadly,” she told KOIN 6 News. “We went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants Friday night, Solstice at the waterfront, and you can never get a table there quickly on a Friday night. We got a table right away, which, I guess, was good for us but it just breaks my heart.”

She said September is generally a very strong month for her business, but this downturn “hit us pretty hard.”

Tokstad said the Eagle Creek Fire has created a “sort of double whammy” following the hard winter with the ice and snow. “I’d be surprised if we didn’t lose a couple of businesses after all of this.”

David Murrell, the operations manager for the Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room in Hood River, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)
David Murrell, the operations manager for the Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room in Hood River, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)

Things have also been slow just down the street at the Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room, where business is off 50%. They’ve also had to cut hours for servers and bartenders, and most of the customers they’re seeing live here.

Business owners hope visitors will remember that even with I-84 closed, you can still get to Hood River from Portland by either taking Highway 26 to Highway 35, or taking SR-14 on the Washington side.

They said they could sure use the support right now.

“We’re definitely cutting hours of staff that are servers and bartenders and cooks,” said David Murrell, the operations manager for the Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room. “As far as the brewery, we’re full steam ahead. No real impacts on the brewery other than the cost of shipping our beers has grown.”

He said this is normally a great time to enjoy the Gorge, but this past weekend was strictly locals eating lunch and dinner.

Shelves are emptying at the Skamania General Store, as business increased with the closure of I-84 during the Eagle Creek Fire, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)
Shelves are emptying at the Skamania General Store, as business increased with the closure of I-84 during the Eagle Creek Fire, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)

“I think the number one thing that people should remember is that it’s still a great town to be in,” Murrell said. “The air quality is actually great most days now, and shopping or eating out in Hood River is probably the number one way to help local businesses.”

On the Washington side of the Columbia River, the owner of the Skamania General Store said he’s run out of gas and is trying to get more.

Owner Mike Zamani is also down to backstock for items like soda and snacks.

“It’s been a little bit more busier because 84 is shut down. There’s more traffic on Highway 14,” Zamani said. “We used to have a lot of hikers up here and some fishermen. We don’t have those people now. We get more traffic for 84, so it just balances out.”

Mike Zamani, the owner of the Skamania General Store, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)
Mike Zamani, the owner of the Skamania General Store, September 11, 2017 (KOIN)

At the Back Porch Coffee Bistro in Stevenson, things are a little busier than usual, store personnel said. But some people aren’t stopping because they don’t want to lose their place in line in the traffic.

One thing businesses on both sides of the river agree on: they’re anxious for things to get back to normal. They just don’t know when that will be.

But they’re all open for business right now.

“We’ve got music (Tuesday) night, we’ve got a great blues band coming out and we’ll be taking donations at that event as well,” Double Mountain’s Murrell said. “So if people come out, that would be great. Our beer process is not affected.”

Melika’s Melissa Tokstad said everyone loves Hood River.

“I don’t think you’ll find anyone who doesn’t love coming here,” she said. “Today is a beautiful day. I’m so happy it’s sunny out and there’s still a lot to do here.”