Gorge small businesses fighting to recover from the Eagle Creek - KPTV - FOX 12

Gorge small businesses fighting to recover from the Eagle Creek Fire

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Business owners in Troutdale say their sales are down due to the Eagle Creek Fire, and they want customers to know that the town is still there and needs their support now more than ever.

While those businesses may be open, the hikers, drivers and tourists normally headed to the Gorge and Multnomah Falls are gone.

There are fewer orders and empty tables at the downtown restaurant Troutini.

“With I-84 being closed and tourists not going up and down the road, even the truck drivers, we're not getting the hikers or tourists at all,” chef Nicholas Lashomb said. "We're probably down 80 percent."

It is the same story at the Troutdale General Store, where owner Terry Smoke said their sales are down 50 percent, affecting how he can staff his shop.

“It's hard. We've got employees that we need to keep working,” he said. “I’ve already sent two home today."

For other business owners, the continued aftermath of the fire is leading to more work just to keep operating. Laura Burlous with The Troutdale House said that setting the stage for dream weddings has become a nearly impossible challenge at her venue.

“We're constantly cleaning things because the ash continues to blow around," she explained. “We get people from all over the world coming to weddings, and they’re like, ‘Is it safe, is it there?’”

In addition to potential visitors scared off by the smoke, there is an incorrect belief that Troutdale isn't accessible in the first place.

“We're not burnt down,” Burlous said. “We're safe. Come out have some dinner."

While the backbone of tourism, on which many in the town rely, is gone for now, local business owners believe they will survive.

"The Columbia Gorge, we're a tight group,” Smoke said. “We'll work together to get through this."

The Eagle Creek Fire has been tough on businesses in other towns in the Gorge as well. To help, small businesses in Cascade Locks have started a digital cash mob campaign, with restaurants and stores selling gift certificates online at CascadeLocksStrong.com.

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