Garnet Mercantile General Manager Mary Howes stands in a specially decorated part of the store where santa will be available to take Christmas pictures on Saturdays for $5. (Garrett Estrada photo)

Garnet Mercantile General Manager Mary Howes stands in a specially decorated part of the store where santa will be available to take Christmas pictures on Saturdays for $5. (Garrett Estrada photo)

With Christmas coming up, the struggle to come up with good gift ideas for friends and family is back. But for those stumped individuals looking for something special to put under the tree, General Manager for the Garnet Mercantile Mary Howess said that the answer could be right inside her store.

“This is our busiest time of the year,“ Howes said. “There is just about anything you might think of for a gift in this store.”

The two-story Garnet Mercantile, located on Aultman Street on the West end of downtown Ely, offers a little bit of everything. Originally conceived as a locally-based clothing store alternative to J.C. Penny, the previous tenant of the building, Howes said she has watched the store grow to include a more diverse inventory in her four years working there.

“Two years ago, this store was just a clothing store. We offer a lot more now,” Howes said, who mentioned that her and her staff have worked hard to increase the quantity and variety of products they carry since then.

“We are focusing on the local people who can’t go out of town to shop to try and provide the things they need.”

Whether those things include the different clothing brands and shoes on display, Indian jewelry, or pieces of art and furniture on consignment, Howes said that customers who haven’t explored the store in some time can expect to find them at lower prices.

“One of the biggest complaints that we used to have were that the prices were too high or that people couldn’t afford to shop here. I know that people have heard for years that we were trying to lower those prices but if they haven’t been in the store in some time, they might not realize that we have managed to do that,” she said.

In addition to offering more affordable selections for her store’s patrons, Howes has also worked  with the “Santa’s Elves” clothing program, put on by Mount Wheeler Power, to help provide warm clothing for income-qualified families. The program strokes a particular chord with Howes, since she said that she used to be on the receiving end of it.

“It was there when I couldn’t provide Christmas for my son. I was on the receiving end for four years while I got on my own feet. Now I’m just trying to pay it forward,” Howes said.

This year the Garnet Mercantile filled 71 orders for coats, pants and socks or underwear for those in need through the “Santa’s Elves” program. But that is just one of the ways the store is getting ready for the holiday rush.

Santa will be available for pictures in a specially decorated section of the store every Saturday for $5. The Garnet Mercantile has also extended its business hours to stay open until 8 p.m. seven days a week to accommodate those shoppers who get off work later.

For Howes, all the store’s changes, from inventory to services, has been in an effort to get locals coming back in her doors. In the four years it took for her to move up from a part-time sales associate to becoming the General Manager of the store, she knows that the community’s support is the reason she is still in business today. And though Thanksgiving may have already passed, Howes said she extends her deepest gratitudes to those that have continued to support the Mercantile over the years.

“I would like to thank the local residents for their continued support and thank you to the one’s who have decided to come back and give us a second chance and see what the store is like because this is not the same store that it used to be.”

For more information on the Garnet Mercantile or for information on Santa’s hours and availability on Saturdays, call 775-289-4636.