Many visitors have been asking how our tiny tourist town has been doing during the worldwide pandemic. Of course, the answer is always evolving. Here’s an honest perspective about the impact from a (relatively new) local.
Living in a tiny town with one clinic, and a majority of our residents being retirees, we were set up for a very fearful situation at best, and a disaster at worst.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of our mayor, Sally Ranzau, as well as commitment from local businesses, we have essentially kept COVID out of our remote town. (Knock on wood.) According to Okanogan County Health, at the time of writing this blog, there have been 11 confirmed cases in the Methow Valley and no deaths.
The Mayor, and the City Council put up posters, large wooden signs around town, encouraged businesses to follow the state guidelines, and provided free masks. We are grateful for local businesses, and visitors who continue to help contain the virus.
Businesses are Resilient
Some of our local businesses have reported an increase in revenue while others have struggled. The sit-down restaurants have been hit hard in particular. Several successful businesses have changed hands since March including Kind Grinds, The Cascades Outdoor Store and Winthrop Mountain Sports. Riverside Grill which has been closed for about four years has been purchased and is being renovated.
Our local, independent movie theater, the Barnyard Cinema, and the Shafer Museum have not officially opened their doors as of yet. We have lost Kittie’s Old Time Photo Parlor for good. One retail location is available next to The French Quail. One more retail location will be coming available as soon as construction on the new Winthrop Library is complete.
Considering the numbers of businesses permanently closing in other communities, we count ourselves fortunate. We are aware of the fact that local businesses depend on the revenue from our busy touristy summers to make it though the less busy months. (Fall, winter, and spring are a great time to visit in an authentic, socially-distancing way.)
Up in Smoke
The wild fires across the west coast in September impacted the ability of locals and visitors to enjoy the last weeks of summer in the valley, but locals knew better than to complain.
The smoke has covered us in summers past and many of us have lost our homes to its hungry flames. Winthrop residents wanted to help when fires broke out on the eastern side of Okanogan County. Locals offered those in need clothing, essentials, and even hay for the livestock of those displaced. Okanogan Wildfire Relief Fund
We are looking forward to a strong winter season with our alpine ski hill, Loup Loup Ski Bowl, offering twice as much indoor space after a successful construction project.
Our world-famous cross-country trails, Methow Trails, will boast of more miles of groomed trails than ever! They will also offer online passes so you can enjoy nature without the need to go into a shop for the purchase.
Although organized sports are on a hiatus across the state. However, our outdoor ice rink, The Winthrop Rink, has worked closely with the Governor’s office to allow for open skate, skate lessons, and skate rentals. They might be able to organize some adult tournaments later in the winter if further approval allows.
Another huge impact of this worldwide pandemic has been our housing market. Vacant land and homes have been selling like hotcakes around here. Locals who rent have been particularly hit hard by this trend. The Methow Housing Trust works to increase the valley’s affordable housing.
I heard a rumor that the local school is seeing an increase of enrollment from families who have moved into their second homes here. I don’t have any evidence or data to show if this is true. The local school district is offering in-person instruction two days a week for all of the pupils, K-12. They are going above and beyond by offering students free breakfast, lunch, and transportation, as well a school-sponsored outdoor social learning pods.
Overall, the business owners, residents of Winthrop and the entire Methow Valley are among some of the most optimistic and resilient people you’ll ever meet. Our outdoor recreation continues to be worth the short drive from anywhere in the state of Washington.
When this pandemic is over, we hope you’ll think of us when you need a getaway. We are thinking of you and hope you’re well too.
How has 2020 impacted your town?
Winthrop Marketing Director