OAKHURST – In the midst of promotions like the “Think Local First” and “Small Business Saturday,” there was disheartening news that spread quickly through town before Thanksgiving: Miller’s Mountain Sports – an area anchor since 1987 – will close its doors for good at the end of this month, marking the end of an era.
While the inventory is being liquidated with discounts of 40%, and the store itself is in the process of being emptied out, on Monday it was fairly full of customers, all looking for a good bargain and lamenting the closure of a place people have counted on for 26 years.
Owner Greg Miller was behind the counter as usual, along with store manager Joyce Papazian. Both were busy ringing up customers with deep discounts, tired but friendly, and glad to see familiar faces pop in to say hello. Miller took some time away from the cash register to address the store’s closing.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep from closing for at least six months, and held it off as long as I could. But, a decision had to be made,” said Miller, who came to the mountains from San Diego in 1991, after his father started the business in a few years earlier.
Last weekend, the store opened in the wee hours on “Black Friday,” and Miller said his daily lunch since then had consisted solely of a swig of water between brisk sales. At one point the line of customers waiting to check out snaked throughout the entire shop.
Some might say Miller’s Mountain Sports was doomed the day the big retail sporting goods store moved into Oakhurst, yet the smaller shop’s proprietor says it wasn’t just the competition that has led to this day.
“It’s a whole bunch of reasons,” Miller recounted, spelling out the sad truth. “It started with gas prices, the economy going down and people losing their homes. There’s not a lot of extra income so people take fewer vacations, and all those factors mean fewer tourists passing through town.”
The number and duration of the recent disruptions of tourism have hit many local businesses hard.
“We had the hanta virus in between two bad winters. Then this summer, a fire outside the park and the park closure due to the government shutdown. When somebody comes from another country and they want to go to Yosemite, if part of the park is on fire, they’re not coming to the park.”
With tourism being the life-blood of many Yosemite gateway businesses, it’s easy to find other examples of stores shutting down around the area. Still, Miller’s is a particularly tough one to lose.
“It affected the whole town,” said Miller. “You see it all over the place with other businesses. Tough decisions have to be made.”
Customers milled about in Miller’s on Monday, picking up small treasures, examining gear, checking sizes, holiday shopping and taking the opportunity to find some real deals on great merchandise. The mood was mixed, as people are unhappy to hear the news, though everybody loves a sale.
Miller encourages people to keep coming in as long as the store has merchandise to sell.
“Come in, and get what’s left. If you’ve been looking at something and were not able to buy it, it’s now 40% off. You will not hurt my feelings to come in and buy stuff at 40% off, I want to get rid of it. I can’t wear all those snow pants,” said Miller, as another pair of saucy hot pink cold weather bottoms went flying out the door at a nice discount.
Call Miller’s Mountain Sports at (559) 683-7946 or visit their Facebook page.
The store is located at 40343 Highway 41 in Oakhurst.