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PUBLISHED: 1:47 PM on Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Downtown shops prepare for new season
Misconceptions abound regarding stores' ownership, cruise exec says
JUNEAU - Some people in Juneau can't wait for more stores to open up during the summer while other locals will avoid the front lines with abandon from May to September. Either way, the shops on South Franklin Street feed the needs of shopping tourists like none other.

Seasonal shops make up about 40 percent of Juneau's stores, according to Ann House of the Downtown Business Association and owner of clothing boutique Boheme.


Naomi Judd photo
  Stores prepare for the upcoming tourism season from the inside out. Pictured: The Alaska T-Shirt company makes sure its entry and surrounding walkway will be spic n' span.
"At least 500 people walk in through a shop on a regular summer day, sometimes maybe thousands," House said.

There are more than 20 shops that will reopen just on South Franklin Street. Many believe several of the stores to be owned by the cruise industry. Contrary to whatever gossip the common streetwalker may have heard, this is not the case.

"There's not a store on S. Franklin St. owned by a Cruise company, nor has there ever been." House said. "This has been a misconception probably since cruise ships have been coming here, since 1962 or earlier."

Kirby Day, the on-shore tour operator for Princess Cruises and Tours confirms it.

"It's a myth, partly because of some of the store names like Princess Jewelers and Caribbean Jewelers, I'm sure if there was a Holland Jewelers that it too would be confused," he said. "The cruise industry doesn't own any gift shops, it's a myth and in fact. Many are owned locally."


Naomi Judd photo
  Like many stores on S. Franklin St., Gold Mine Gifts prepares for the season by making repairs and improvements. The floor of this shop may be lined with canvas, paint cans and wood chips, but within a few weeks it will open its doors - ready for another season of tourists.
Many seasonal businesses are indeed owned locally, such as The Raven's Journey. Owner Kathy Ellis, now retired from the Session, runs the shop with her husband and they live here year-round. The Ravens Journey has been in business for 17 years. Though it is mostly a seasonal shop, some years they keep it open until Christmas.

"It really depends on the weather and how the season went," she said.

"When I got into this business, I thought I was going to have a lot of free time," she laughed. "But it's like any other business, you work real hard especially in the summer and hope you've made enough to get you through the winter." This year they have a website her husband created, www.ravensjourneygallery.com, which she hopes will increase year-round sales. Her husband, John, also makes the jewelry they sell.

"Our shop is really quite different from many of the others, we are a gallery, so we aren't unloading tons and tons of crates to stock up on items," she said. "But we do some stocking and paint walls, and clean and oil the cabinets to prepare for the season."

Other shops such as The Jade Shop, which will be open for its fifth year are managed locally but owned from afar.

Jade Shop manager Jackie Lanz is a Juneau local but the owners live in Vancouver. There are Jade Shops in Vancouver, Victoria, Ketchikan and Juneau, the Alaska shops being the only seasonal ones. Lanz said they prefer to hire locals.

The benefits of owning a seasonal business are similar to fishing; cast your line in the water when there are plenty of fish to bite.

"You get more people at once in a seasonal shop, more of a steady stream," Lanz said.

House agrees that seasonal shops have many advantages.

"(Seasonal shops) don't have to endure winter weather, they are here when its populated, there aren't really any negatives," she said.

Some owners have shops in other places during the winter, said House, and operate them in Mexico, the Caribbean, Colorado, or Hawaii to name a few. She estimates about half the owners live somewhere else.

There are a lot of preparations to be made before the first ships let down their gates. They must redo displays and be fully stocked, at least for the first month said House.

"They must hire employees, prepare the property, including painting, heating, plumbing, making sure everything runs properly and that there are no leaks," she said.

And why are there so many diamond and jewelry shops?

"Jewelry is a profitable business," she said. "It's an excitement, people like to buy jewelry on their trips to celebrate."


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