On a stretch of Morley, business picks up more slowly | Local News
Last Friday morning, Chi’s Flores on Morley Avenue was overflowing with products: birdcages, ceramic figurines of saints and, its flagship product, fabric flower arrangements.
But something was missing, according to employee Rebeca Casteñada.
“There is no one,” she remarked.
Chi’s was not completely empty on Friday afternoon. Casteñada would help shoppers from time to time as they browsed carnations and fluffy fabric roses. Essentially, she’s the only employee in the store at the moment; it wouldn’t make sense to hire someone else with such a low turnout, she said.
It has been nearly six months since the border reopened to non-essential travel from Mexico to the United States. And while visitors to Sonora have returned and many previously dormant shops in downtown Nogales have come back to life, a stretch of Morley Avenue looks much like it did during the 20 months of travel restrictions.
On the Morley block between East and Court streets, at the north end of the downtown shopping district, staff from the handful of open stores who spoke to the NI late last week observed a similar pattern : business picks up, but not at first. pandemic levels.
Not even close, Casteñada said. When asked how business had gone, she didn’t water it down.
“Very ugly,” she replied. “Very deadly.”
“He’s still there,” she said of the store, where she’s worked for nearly 30 years. “People come in. But, (it’s) really lonely.”
Chi’s is on the 150-250 block of Morley Avenue, where many storefronts remain closed, hidden under metal security gates.
Among those that remain open: a sporting goods store stocked with baseball caps, a boutique selling women’s underwear, a wholesaler with bicycle tires and guitars on display in its windows.
Compared to other Morley stores, this particular stretch of businesses is farther from the pedestrian entry points, where visitors to Mexico often cross paths to shop.
As of Thursday, around 23 of the 31 storefronts on the east side of Morley, from the border to East Street, were open for business. Meanwhile, only five of the 15 storefronts between East and Court streets were active that afternoon.
But Casteñada expressed doubts about whether Chi’s location was affecting low buyer turnout. In previous years, the store had rented property closer to the port of entry, expecting more foot traffic. This does not happen.
“People go where they want,” she added.
This block of Morley is not completely devoid of customers.
On Monday afternoon, in the scorching sun, Rosa María Romero was browsing through items outside Numero Uno, a clothing store about 10 storefronts south of the florist where Casteñada works. Shops on this side of the border, she explained, offer a wide variety.
“Shoes, sneakers,” she says.
Romero said she also drove through northern Nogales, Sonora, to buy ice cream — which she resold in Mexico. But during the pandemic, when the border was closed, that was no longer a possibility.
On Monday, however, she was back, seeing if she could find a T-shirt for her brother’s birthday.
A little further south, Natalia Diaz held the fort at Sol Discounts, a hardware store, general store and retail store still on the north side of the East Street intersection – the seemingly arbitrary divide between the relatively healthy and still segments. suffering from Morley. Once the border reopened, Diaz said, she noticed a little more movement — but staff, she said, hoped for more.
Asked about the factors behind the slow movement, Diaz pointed to the visa process for travelers from Mexico. Some clients who had previously visited Sol, she said, had informed her that they were still waiting for the documents that would allow them to cross north again.
“We talk,” she said of her longtime clients, noting that she had worked at Sol for decades.
US State Department data reflects this trend. According to a calculator on the department’s website, people applying for a visitor’s visa at the US consulate in Nogales, Sonora can expect to wait 634 calendar days before an appointment – at least 21 months.
Visa services, the department wrote on its site, are “very limited in availability.”
The federal data also reflects what Castañeda and Diaz say they observed: Inbound passages have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
As of March 2022, the United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics recorded over 209,000 inbound pedestrian crossings at Nogales entry points. That’s up from previous months during the pandemic, but still not as high as March 2019, when BTS documented over 287,000 crosswalks.
Financial reports from the city of Nogales also detail more revenue from sales tax collection. In February 2022, the city collected over $939,400 in local sales tax. That’s nearly twice as much as his February 2021 report, when Nogales raised just over $467,000. Although sales tax can sometimes be used as a measure of economic activity in a city, the increase can be attributed to various other factors, including inflation.
Meanwhile, the action at Twin’s Sports, located in the same building as Numero Uno, has been waning for years, according to owner Insoon Kim – long before the pandemic hit.
“Every year, starting in 2008, down, down, down,” she said last Friday, standing in the well-stocked sporting goods store.
When a Big 5 Sporting Goods opened on Mariposa Road, she added, it didn’t help business. It was in 2016.
The data shows that before 2008, pedestrian crossings were, as claimed by Kim, significantly higher for the Nogales area.
About 20 years ago, in 2002, the BTS recorded more than double the number of incoming pedestrian crossings that Nogales sees today. In March of that year, the federal government documented more than 472,000 pedestrian crossings in Nogales.
In some cases, Kim added, her store has stopped ordering items altogether. But they continue to market and display their main product: Major League Baseball caps.
Marked 50%, dozens of hats — bearing Phillies, Dodgers, Astros logos — lined the shelves. Kim says she takes care to provide all the teams to appeal to her customers, who want variety.
“In Tucson, they only sell Arizona teams. My clients (are) from Mexico, they don’t care,” she laughed. “That’s why we have a lot of selections, we have all the teams.”
Both Kim and Casteñada noted that things could still improve for Morley’s businesses.
“Over time people will start again (come back), I believe,” Casteñada said. “They will come back.”