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Le Mars businesses count on strong holiday sales season after pandemic losses

 Santa's sleigh sits in a downtown street of Le Mars in preparation for the 'Christmas in Hometown Le Mars' festival.
Kendall Crawford
Santa's sleigh sits in a downtown street of Le Mars in preparation for the 'Christmas in Hometown Le Mars' festival.

Sales at Terry Claussen’s local retail store in downtown Le Mars have come a long way since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

His business grew stronger this year, and he hopes the town’s holiday events continue to bring in more customers to help fill the gaps that last year’s shutdowns left.

“We’re still alive and eager to do business,” said Claussen, the owner of Claussen’s Clothing Store in downtown Le Mars. “And having people around helps us all.”

Small business owners in Le Mars are counting on the town’s Christmastime festivities to draw in a bigger crowd to their stores. The northwest Iowa town’s shop owners hope the holiday sales will help their businesses recover, after closing their doors during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were doing what we could to get the cash flow. But we’re still kind of playing catch up.”
Jennifer Scholten, manager of JOBA's Decor and Gifts.

The town will host its second annual ‘Christmas in Hometown Le Mars’ festival, featuring singing, dancing and the lighting of a massive Christmas tree, on Saturday. Unlike its inaugural year, the festival’s events will be entirely held in-person.

“We’re all anticipating it to be a big day,” said Claussen. “The more people talking about Le Mars the better off we all are.”

Lori French, the Main Street director for the town’s Chamber of Commerce, said the festivities are a way to highlight all the town has to offer and to bring in more foot traffic for local businesses.

“It drives a lot of people into Le Mars who don’t normally shop here,” French said.

During the holidays, Le Mars is also home to one of the largest outdoor Christmas light displays in western Iowa. Owned by Rob and Joyce Scheitler, the Christmas Acres has attracted people from surrounding towns into the area for 23 years.

Local business owners look forward to the opportunities the seasonal tourism presents for business, especially after a hard year.

“We were doing what we could to get the cash flow. But we’re still kind of playing catch up,” said Jennifer Scholten, the manager of JOBA’s Decor and Gifts in downtown Le Mars. “So, after a year of nothing, it’s nice to have foot traffic again.”

 Jennifer Scholten sits in JOBA's Decor and Gifts.
Kendall Crawford
JOBA's Decor and Gifts manager Jennifer Scholten believes Christmas festivities could help her business recover from losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The holiday season brings increased incentives to shop at local businesses, spearheaded by the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce. From mid-November to early December, the organization offers a $5 coupon book for shoppers to use towards local participating businesses.

It’s the kind of recognition of small businesses that makes owners like Claussen and Scholten love being a part of Le Mars.

“I feel like people realized how important we are when they couldn’t get out and go anywhere else. We are a critical part of the infrastructure of a town,” she said.

Le Mars recently finished construction of a new welcome sign at the center of town, boasting its claim to fame as the "Ice Cream Capital of the World." The 80-foot-wide, 20-foot-long project that began last year is complete just in time to help advertise Saturday’s Christmas festival.

Scholten hopes it’s just another reason for outsiders to visit Le Mars for the first time.

“Hopefully, Le Mars will be full of people with fat wallets and lots of shopping desire,” she said.

Kendall was Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA until Jan. 20, 2023.