Downtown boutique closes doors after 22 years as owner looks to move on

Tighter budgets, online sales prove challenging for small businesses, owner says

Lisa Ryals, owner of Lisa Davidson’s Boutique, talks about the closing of her business after 22 years on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

It was 22 years ago, but Lisa Ryals still remembers her first sale.

 

She was just 21 years old at the time and had just opened a shop called Lisa Davidson’s Boutique in the Mendenhall Mall. Clothing had always been her passion, and she had known since childhood that she wanted to own a store.

When it opened, her first sale was a winter hat and a pair of mittens.

“It was (bought with) a credit card, so I didn’t get to put the dollar on the wall,” Ryals said, laughing.

Now, there’s hardly anything left on her walls. At her shop on Seward Street, where she’s been for the past 19 years, almost everything is out. Ryals closed up shop at the end of October, the same month during which she celebrated her store’s 22nd anniversary.

It’s what Ryals — who chose the pseudonym Davidson for her store name to keep some anonymity — described as a “sad-happy” feeling.

It’s hard for Ryals to let go of the business she grew up dreaming of and that she ran for so long, but she’s excited about what’s next.

“A shift in how I wanna spend my time is really a big part of it,” Ryals said. “I’ve done six days a week since I was in the workforce and I’d like to spend a little bit more time doing other things, doing Southeast Alaska things. One of my first things is going deer-hunting.”

This decision came to her fairly quickly, though she’s been pondering it for a while. Oct. 1 of this year was the 22-year anniversary of the shop opening, and by Oct. 3 she had made up her mind that it was time to close her doors.

Her regulars flooded the store when she announced the closing. There have been numerous meaningful interactions with loyal customers over the years, and Ryals reflected on them Wednesday. There was the woman who let it slip to Ryals that she was pregnant even before she had told her husband. There was the legislator who vented to Ryals during her first couple years on the job about the challenges of it.

“That’s another weird thing that you wouldn’t realize,” Ryals said. “There’s a lot of confidences that go on in a dressing room between an owner and a person. I think sometimes getting undressed behind a door, there’s a different vulnerability, but if you’re comfortable, it’s fair game to talk about anything. I’ve had some really amazing tales come through.”

Many of them have reached out to Ryals over the past month. The store closed on Oct. 31. Her final sale was clothing fixtures to another vendor, she said, but there’s a chance she could keep selling other items to people who reach out. She estimates that the store will be empty by the middle of the month.

There isn’t a new business lined up to take her spot quite yet, and Ryals lamented the number of other businesses calling it quits this year. Smaller shops such as Seaside Yarns and Rufus K Page in the Wharf have closed recently, and Ryals said it’s been sad to watch.

“There’s turnover every year,” Ryals said. “I do think it’s more (this year) than what we’ve seen in a while.”

Ryals, who has seen the businesses on Seward Street change hands for years, pointed to a few factors. With multiple levels of government struggling to balance their budgets, people are more likely to cut back on spending money at boutiques or specialty shops, she’s noticed. Local businesses are also losing customers to online shopping, she pointed out.

Still, Ryals said she’s optimistic in some new businesses and with the excitement of young entrepreneurs downtown. She said it’s a tight-knit community and downtown business owners root for one another to succeed.

As for what’s next after deer hunting, she’s not quite sure. Whatever it is, though, she’s looking forward to it.

“There’s no regrets for closing,” Ryals said. “I’ve had a great time doing it as long as I have, but I have plenty of time for another career, so I’ll find out what it is.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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