Following last year’s blackout, Old Sacramento businesses ready for holiday shopping

SACRAMENTO — Businesses in Old Sacramento are getting re-energized for holiday sales after last year’s days-long blackout put a big dent in their sales.

The big Old Sacramento tree lighting ceremony is set for Wednesday along with the first “Theatre of Lights” show.

On the eve of the event, people in Old Sacramento were treated to a dress rehearsal with Jack Frost jumping on a rooftop and a giant Polar Express train pulling out of its station.

Troy Carlson owns Stage Nine, which is now packed with toys for holiday shoppers.

“It’s kind of the calm before the storm, a good storm though,” Carlson said.

He’s increased his seasonal staff from 18 to 24 and is ready to make some big sales.

“We had a big staff meeting where we talked about the next four weekends. You know, it’s only four weekends,” Carlson said.

Anwar Khan owns Old City Kites and is concerned not enough people coming to see the sights in Old Sacramento will spend.

“We’re kind of stretched,” Khan said. “Sometimes we see on the news and other places, ‘Come and free entertainment.’ This is not free entertainment. Everybody wants to make some money, everybody has to pay some bills.”

This season comes after a days-long blackout in the middle of December last year hit every business’ holiday sales bottom line.

No one was hurt more than the California State Railroad Foundation, which runs the Polar Express ride as its largest fundraiser. They had to cancel two days of rides and eight trains.

Megan Villapudua is the marketing director for the California State Railroad Foundation.

“Ah, we remember last year. We remember last year pretty well,” Villapudua said. “We lost about $200,000.”

Now, the Polar Express trains are leaving the station again.

“And it’s a huge operation. Hopefully, pun intended, it stays on track,” Villapudua said.

The Old Sacramento’s retail district is back on board and banking on a return of holiday business. There are 130 small businesses in Old Sacramento.

The official tree lighting is set for 5:30 pm Wednesday.

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