2 longtime Sitka businesses shutting down

SITKA — Two longtime Sitka retailers are going out of business, citing fewer tourists and increased Internet sales.

Colliver Shoes and Bear Country Gifts, along with the furniture and housewares store Home Plus, are closing.

Mary Lou Colliver told the Daily Sitka Sentinel her business in the community of about 9,000 on Baranof Island couldn’t handle another year of decreased tourism and waning local sales.

“When I started my business, I was tourist-directed and focused, and over the years we just lost so many tourists,” said Colliver, who has been in business for 27 years. “With the downturn of tourism and more Internet shopping and less local support, it just makes it harder to make your ends meet.”

Jo Cropley has operated the furniture store with her husband, Sonny, for 33 years. “Each year it was getting slower and slower,” she said.

“We’re not closing because we’re retiring. We’re closing because we have to,” Jo Cropley said.

Colliver said in 1997, about 183,000 tourists came in on cruise ships, but that number fell to about 100,000 last year. It didn’t help that the last four cruise ships of the season canceled port calls because of poor weather.

“Internet shopping has made an effect. The price of utilities has made an effect, and less money in town has been an issue,” Jo Cropley said. “It’s a trickle-down effect.”

Demographics also may play a role.

“We don’t see a lot of young people in our store,” Jo Cropley said. “We need an industry in Sitka. We need to keep young families here, and they need to be able to earn money and support the local economy.”

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