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For downtown, Public Market takes shopping precedence

Posted: November 27, 2013 - 1:06am

While shoppers in the Mendenhall Valley line up outside Fred Meyer and Walmart in the wee hours of post-Thanksgiving Friday, many downtown businesses experience a shopping day that’s downright relaxing.

“It’s kind of chill,” Annie Kaill’s owner Colleen Goldrich said. “A lot is about the Public Market and the artists coming in for that.”

This year, the Public Market, housed in Centennial Hall and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, will feature more than 150 artists and vendors from all over the country, organizer Peter Metcalfe said. Last year, the market had more than 10,000 entries, some of those from shoppers who came back multiple times over the three-day event. About one-third of Juneau attended, he said.

The market has been a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for 30 years, Metcalfe said. In 1992, he was able to start opening the market at noon instead of 4 p.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving. Just like that, he said, the Public Market became downtown’s Black Friday.

“Suddenly Friday became our big day over night,” Metcalfe said. “When that happened it was a complete surprise for me, that hundreds of people were lined up to get in. This was an outgrowth of Black Friday shoppers who had done some initial shopping at the 7 a.m. openings.”

This year, a shuttle will carry Public Market shoppers on a downtown loop, helping with the parking problem that has plagued past Thanksgiving weekends, Goldrich said.

Many downtown businesses are open the Friday after Thanksgiving, said Goldrich, also a Downtown Business Association board member. Most keep normal hours and don’t offer special sales. Annie Kaill’s will be doing gift certificate drawings Friday, Saturday and Sunday, she said.

“Juneau’s kind of interesting because we have the Public Market — they don’t think Black Friday, they think Public Market,” Shoefly and Hudsons owner and DBA secretary Sydney Mitchell said. “It’s sort of a typical holiday day. There might even be less people out and about.”

Mitchell said her shop will be open Friday with the rest, but won’t be offering any special deals.

“Shoefly already had its big, crazy shoe shopping event at the beginning of November,” she said. “Small Business Saturday becomes a focus for us.”

The Small Business Saturday movement is a trend that’s emerged in recent years as a response to the massive spending at big box stores on Black Friday. Mitchell said she’s calculated that for every dollar spent at Shoefly, 45 cents of it stays in Juneau. Other Juneau business owners have made similar calculations, she said.

“It goes for payroll, it goes for services, it goes for supplies — all the things it takes to run a business,” Mitchell said.

The DBA is “in the process of re-energizing,” she said, and has plans to get Juneauites shopping local — not just on Small Business Saturday but year-round.

“(The DBA has) accomplished a lot, but a lot of what it’s accomplished over the years has been quiet victories,” Mitchell said. “Now we can focus on building more of an advanced, specific organization, where we’re inviting Juneau to come downtown.”

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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