Published: May 28, 2024 | Updated: May 23, 2024

Summer brings big opportunities for small shops

Ed and Lois Phillips, owners of Bear Paw Cookies Bakery and Crepes in Coeur d'Alene, stand in their Sherman Avenue shop.

Ed and Lois Phillips, owners of Bear Paw Cookies Bakery and Crepes in Coeur d'Alene, stand in their Sherman Avenue shop.

COEUR d’ALENE — Ed Phillips opens the oven doors at Bear Paw Cookies Bakery and Crepes on Monday afternoon, and his wife Lois Phillips slides in a tray of cookie dough. As he begins to shut the oven doors, Lois stops him.

“Wait. There’s more,” she says as she picks up another tray filled with precise rows of dough that will come out as heavenly fresh cookies.

Then, Ed Phillips, wearing large mitts, gently closes the oven door. Both take a breath. They can relax for a few minutes.

But only a few.

The busy summer season is almost here and small shops like Bear Paw Cookies are gearing up for brisk business. Through August and into September, they’ll make and sell hundreds of cookies daily, along with scores of crepes and gallons of ice cream. 

The crush of customers is good, but it comes with challenges including having enough staff and product, and keeping all the equipment operating as it should. And as they created their own recipes, they must be vigilant about ingredients.

“Our stuff is always fresh and homemade only,” Ed Phillips said. “We don’t do day-old. We don’t do last week’s stuff. We can’t really get ahead of the game.”

The Phillips opened Bear Paw Cookies at Riverstone in 2019 and a year later, opened a second store on Sherman Avenue.

Business is good.

Last summer, they employed 21 people and expect to bring on board about the same number this year and are in the midst of hiring for summer.

Many of their staff are high schoolers, but others come on board.

“We had our first college student application today,” Lois Phillips said.

The Phillips often put in 60-hour work weeks overseeing both stores as they greet customers from around the world.

“It’s a pretty unique shop,” Ed Phillips said.

Many are repeat customers.

“We’re all about relationships,” Ed Phillips said.

Emily Boyd, Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association executive director, said the increase in summer traffic is great for small businesses.

“Adjusting to the pace can be challenging,” Boyd said.

Many downtown stores are looking for labor, stocking up on inventory and want to be sure customers have a good experience.

“A lot of  them are hiring now,” she said.

Mark Robitaille, executive director, of the Coeur d'Alene Convention and Visitor Bureau, said all signs are pointing to a strong summer tourism season. 

He said small businesses can benefit by being involved with the downtown association and its events like Car d'Lane and the street fair, which sends customers through their doors.

He said both Silverwood Theme Park and The Coeur d’Alene Resort have reported strong advance sales and bookings.

“We’re looking good into these next couple months,” Robitaille said.

Craig and Ilene Moss have owned and operated All Things Irish on Sherman Avenue for 25 years. Craig Moss said July and August are their among their busiest months, topped only by December when it comes to sales.

With a veteran team of associates, they know customers will be greeted with a smile and looked after, which is important as for many tourists it could be their first time coming into All Things Irish. A good experience could bring them back.

That's why smaller shops want to make a good first impression, Craig Moss said.

“We have a tenured, seasoned staff and that makes a difference,” he said.

For All Things Irish, which as the name says, is filled with products of Ireland, keeping up on inventory is key and even in the summer, people want a piece of Ireland to take home from Coeur d'Alene,

“Believe it or not, we sell a lot of sweaters in the summertime,” Craig Moss said.

    Customers shop at All Things Irish in downtown Coeur d'Alene.