As we pass the one-month mark of the stay-home-stay-safe mandate, it’s still difficult to wrap our heads around the changes in our community. With business closures, beach parking lots blocked off, and even Chinook Winds Casino Resort closed to visitors, our small towns are still reeling from the abrupt changes we’ve only begun to adjust to. The closure of the Lincoln City Outlets and Chinook Winds have left hundreds of locals out of work.
As of March 17, Chinook Winds Casino Resort had furloughed, and subsequently temporarily laid off about 700 team members. More than 200 rooms at the resort sit empty, the gaming floor is darkened and the sprawling parking lot is devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of players and guests coming and going at all hours of the day. Each month it costs thousands of dollars to maintain a non-operational resort and casino. The loss of revenue will have a direct impact on the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians but, due to the uncertainty of the situation, the full impact is not known at this time.
Chinook Winds made the difficult decision to close, prior to the governor’s mandate because, as Heather Hatton, public relations manager for the resort told us, “Our goal is always the safety of our team members and guests. We are a leader in our community and our top priority is always to our team members, local community and visitors”. Closing a resort with hotel rooms, gaming floor and other amenities has its own unique procedures. There were guests already staying at the hotel and more scheduled to arrive, upcoming events had been pre-scheduled and people’s vacations already planned. The resort employees worked with future guests to make other arrangements but, in the end, vacations had to be cancelled or postponed. As the casino and resort sit empty, employees await news from the state’s leadership and health organizations to determine when they might be able to go back to work. Hatton tells us that, as with the decision to close, reopening will be decided based on what is best for the employees, guests and community.
The casino is not the only big closure we have seen here in Lincoln City; our local mall, Lincoln City Outlets was also caught up in the governor’s executive order and closed all of its 50-plus retail stores on March 23. While some of their restaurants stayed open for to-go orders, all retail shops have been shuttered until they are allowed to reopen. This target is ever changing, as we all know, and while mall management hopes to be open for the summer season, Marketing Manager Sharyn Jasmer’s sentiments reflect those of the casino.
“The health and well-being of our customers, center staff and store employees remains our top priority,” she said.
If you are craving some retail therapy, many of the outlets’ stores have shopping available online and the mall’s website and social media channels are updated regularly to let customers know what is happening with the center as a whole and with individual stores. The closure of our area’s largest shopping center affected big-name corporate stores, as well as smaller, locally owned businesses, such as Scout Northwest.
The owners of Scout, Gitl and Jerome Black, were crushed to have to close their doors, even temporarily. They have, however, been using this time without customers to do some big projects they had on the back burner for a while. When we spoke to them, they were mid-project, building an axe-throwing cage where customers can suit up in safety gear and hit a target with a hatchet. This will be a much-needed stress reliever for many of us after the Stay Home, Stay Safe restrictions are lifted. A large portion of the store was also under redesign and, when it reopens, customers will be able to watch the action in progress as Scout employees work on some of the many services offered — such as screen printing, signs and decals. While the staff of Scout did have to be laid off, some of the core employees chose to donate their time and volunteered to help make these changes a reality. Jerome had a hard time putting into words his appreciation for the unexpected overture from these employees. He knows that they are working to make his vision come to life, because they are family, not just employees.
In an effort to keep everyone safe, this small group was adhering to safety practices; keeping separated, using lots of hand sanitizer — and when they offered to let us test out the new axe throwing facility each hatchet was thoroughly wiped down between each person. As you can imagine, the targets have gotten plenty of use during this unsettling time of business closures and health concerns. The Blacks and their employees are managing to keep up morale and good spirits with hard work, a little healthy competition and even an occasional impromptu guitar break.
In addition to being professional photographers, Krista Melone and Rachel Baird are co-owners of Tah•Lume Curiosities & Gifts, which offers online commerce at www.tahlume.com.