Story last updated at 9/19/2012 - 12:46 pm
It's cute. It's classy. It's got a retro edge and a bit of funk, a hippy lilt with a swing of sophistication. The Ketchikan Dry Goods store is nearing the end of its fourth summer season and has proven to be popular with both summer tourists and local residents.
The storefront has an appealing down-home presence. Handmade aprons ripple in the wind; a bench sits under the windows. Walking inside it's hard to decipher that it's located in a workingman's town; it feels like a boutique in a suburb of Seattle. The space isn't large, but it's artfully stocked with appealing displays of body products, sunglasses, smart and sexy blouses and - the major attraction - jewelry.
The store was started by a local jewelry maker, Janine Gibbons, in the summer of 2008. It's located on the edge of downtown, as the main road heads towards the village of Saxman. Gibbons had a loyal following. Her earrings are sought after across the Southeast and beyond. Gibbons' mother, Jackie Tyson of Petersburg, supplied handmade headbands, baby blankets and aprons. Gibbons had a good eye, and stocked her store with artsy and poetic cards and created delicious, inviting displays. A month after she began her business she found out she was pregnant. After the birth of her second child, Gibbons sold the business to Ashley Glenn and Nick Burns in October 2010.
Glenn, 27, is originally from San Diego but moved to Ketchikan with her family in 1991. Her father was in the construction business and the early 1990s were a booming time for his line of work. Glenn went through school in Ketchikan, and started dating her husband, Burns, when she was 17.
After graduating from college with a bachelor's in business management, Glenn managed a jade shop in Ketchikan for four years. But she wanted something more. She wanted something of her own.
"I always wanted to have my own business," Glenn said. "That's why I went to school. Being your boss is the way to go, at least for me."
Glenn wanted to run a business that was fun, yet challenging. Glenn and Gibbons were friends. Glenn would visit the store during her lunch breaks back when Gibbons owned it.
"I always loved this store," she said.
She also liked the idea of running a business that was accessible and made a contribution to the local community.
"I like working with people," Glenn said. "It's fun to help give the employees a good work ethic."
Since buying the business, Glenn has worked hard to keep the general atmosphere that Gibbons had established, but she also wanted to make it her own. She's added more products, like men's wear and more accessories. She's expanded the house ware selection, bath and body products and has introduced more "touristy" items during the summer months. She describes her store as "vintage-inspired and eclectic. It's a small space with a lot to choose from."
Glenn said that the jewelry is still the most popular item, and most of it is locally-made. Though Gibbons and her family now live in Colorado, she continues to make jewelry that is sold in a few places around town.
"Janine's earrings in particular sell the best," Glenn said.
The store's baby items are also popular. Glenn stocks baby blankets, gift books, baby books and baby shower gifts. Glenn has a keen fashion sense. Though the store is not large enough to offer a huge selection, what she does stock is carefully selected.
The majority of the store's clientele is, surprisingly, local said Glenn.
"The locals will brave all the traffic when we have new shipments of jewelry or clothes," Glenn said.
When asked how running her first business has been, Glenn responded that overall it's been great. She said one challenge is staffing. Since a lot of her clientele is local, it's important to Glenn to find solid employees.
"It's fun to have someone who has been here long and can engage with the customers," she said.
Glenn has had two women who have worked for her since she's been in business, but a lot of the potential staff pool return to college in the fall. Glenn said she tries to find staff who fit the store well, who are "dedicated and honest," but able to commit to a full summer or, hopefully, a year.
Right at the end of Glenn's first summer in business she had her first child. As she's the kind of person who doesn't let things slide, Glenn admitted that with a small child it's been a much larger challenge to stay on top of everything. She comes in to the store two days a week during the summer to cover her employees' lunch breaks and to assist with shipments. Most of her work is now done at home. She tracks everything, stays up with orders and creates staff schedules.
"I'm still busy with the store," Glenn said, "But it's behind the scenes."
In March of 2012 she had a Grand Reopening, after she had finally dialed in the store just how she wanted it to be.
"One thing that was hard," Glenn said, "As we do a lot of art walks and fairs like First Friday art walks, was that any time there was a crowd, it was just so closed in here. People with strollers didn't feel comfortable coming in."
So Glenn changed the layout of the store. She moved the cash register area so that the space felt more open and so that the employees could see the door more easily.
"We changed the colors from yellow and dusty blue on the walls to a sky blue and a purple," Glenn said. The reopening was a major success.
"We had tons of people. More than we could fit before," Glenn said.
While there are some aspects of owning and operating a business that aren't so fun, Glenn genuinely enjoys her job.
"It's fun," Glenn admitted. "I like to order and see what people want. It's fun to have a hand in all of that. I get to pick and chose what I want, see how people like it."
If items aren't hot sellers, she enjoys the process of trying to find more popular ones. "It's satisfying."
The stock at the Ketchikan Dry Goods is hippy, in a classy way. There are knit and straw hats, purses, scarves and socks. The items are Bohemian and colorful. There are vintage-looking wallets, baby skirts and dresses made by a local woman, creative and funky gift cards, children's games, sunglasses, incense, candles and stationary. She sells wrapping paper and lip balms, perfumes and soaps with earthy smells. She sells cookbooks and seeks out plates and other serving wear that look like modernized versions of 1940's plate ware.
Despite Ketchikan's heavy reliance on tourism and its relatively small population, Ketchikan Dry Goods remains open year-round.
Glenn talks with Gibbons about once a month. She makes regular jewelry orders from Gibbons, and said Gibbons is happy for her and the changes she's made.
"Overall I'm just excited and happy to be a part of the store and the community and to see where things go," Glenn said. "I'm hopeful too, that things will stay good."
You can find Ketchikan Dry Goods on Facebook.
Amanda Compton is the staff writer for the Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.