Please briefly describe your business.
Making local work: Alaska Robotics 103112 BUSINESS 1 Co-owner of Alaska Robotics (with Pat Race) Please briefly describe your business.

Photo By Sarah Day / Capital City Weekly

Aaron Suring holds up a bright yellow book in his store, Alaska Robotics.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Story last updated at 10/31/2012 - 2:28 pm

Making local work: Alaska Robotics

Please briefly describe your business.

Alaska Robotics is a gallery that displays art that has a comic feel, comics that are art, and shirts that are both. We sell what we like. We feature our own artwork and look to find other exciting creations to show off in our space.

When did your business begin? Did you see a niche to fill, is there a story behind it?

Alaska Robotics is an outgrowth of Lucid Reverie. Several years ago, we realized that the direction Lucid Reverie was going wasn't very interesting or a lot of fun. So we fired a lot of our clients and set out to do more of our own projects. It turns out that it isn't as simple as that, but that was the original impetus behind Alaska Robotics. We changed our small gallery that was hidden in the bowels of Emporium Mall from trying to showcase new artists every month to a more stable space showcasing things we did. To fill out the space, we also started selling graphic novels, which was something we felt there was connection to our work and a market for locally, but there was not a place to get them here.

After a year of our small store operating on a small scale due to being hard to find, we knew that to grow we either needed to grow our advertising budget significantly or we need to move into a new, more visible location. In May we opened our new location on 220 Front street. We have had a bit of a learning curve the first several months (and still are, really), but we are looking forward to continued success as a part of this great community.

What is your business's mission, and how do you work to achieve this?

We want to provide the community with cool artwork, both ours and other things we have discovered and love. We also want to make graphic novels, a terrific artistic medium, available to the Juneau community. We basically are working to be the store that we would love to frequent.

How many employees do you have?

We currently have three employees.

How do you select them?

All of our employees have come to us looking for work. We have conversations with them about them and us and get a feel for how we would work together. We like to find people who are excited about what we do and can communicate that to our customers. It seems to work, I really like all of our crew.

Do you provide service(s) to all of Southeast Alaska?

With the store we are pretty focused on Juneau right now. We do have a website that features our artwork and shirts and we would love to send our stuff throughout Southeast.

Do you provide web sales?

Yes! At

What are your biggest triumphs?

We have been successfully self-employed for 10 years now. It hasn't made us rich, but it's been fun. I also have a lot of pride in our store. I think it looks fantastic and we have a lot of great stuff.

What are your most common hurdles (i.e., shipping)?

We are still working on the best way to get people to discover us and what we have to offer. Graphic novels have come a long way in the last several years, but they are still largely identified as just superhero books, but they really are so much more. I really do think there is a graphic novel for everyone.

What work practices do you try and maintain in order to serve the community the best you can?

We do our best to create and find entertaining and fun things for the community to enjoy. We sell CDs and DVDs from local musicians and movie makers. We have events including drawing nights, First Fridays, and have plans to bring renowned creators to town. We want to be the business that we would love to frequent.

What might encourage local residents to visit your business, rather than ordering something from a non-local business?

The immediacy of local is hard to top, getting what you want when you want it and not having to wait (or pay) for shipping to Alaska. Also being able to browse and explore and find new things. Beyond that, there aren't any non-local places where you can purchase the prints or shirts we make here, just having unique product is a good selling point.

What are your favorite things about your business?

It is always great when a customer recommends that we carry something I hadn't heard of, since I have found a lot of great books that way.

There are so many graphic novels out there it is easy to miss some really good stuff. It's also really fun when people first discover your work and are excited about it.

Are there any interesting facts or information that the community might not know about your business?

We started selling our wares at music and comic conventions Down South as a great excuse to attend the events and help pay for the trip at the same time. We still go to a few conventions, including the Emerald City and San Diego Comic Cons each year. It's a lot of fun and we get to meet some great people that way.

Where do you see your business in 5, 10 years?

Hosting great events on a very regular basis. The place to go for those looking for a great story, or looking to tell one.

Making Local Work is a biweekly feature made possible by Alaska Pacific Bank.