Businesses move in, gear up, close down

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tourist season isn't far off, and changes are afoot in downtown Juneau's storefronts.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Longtime local businesswoman Ann House said her fellow business owners seem to be gearing up for the summer tourist season a little earlier than usual.

"I see more progress than I see closures," said House, who owns the clothing shop Boheme at 127 South Franklin St. House also is a member of the Downtown Business Association.

Meanwhile, local businesses are busy gearing up or moving out.

Shoefly, owned by Sidney Mitchell and Dawn Walsh, is closing its 255 Marine Way doors at 6 p.m. Friday. But its stock will appear at the co-owners' store at 109 Seward St., Hudson's, by Monday morning.

Mitchell said Hudson's is a better location for locals, who make up 60 percent of her business. It has been a shoe store since 1939, she said.

Juneau's Imagination Station, in the Senate Mall building at 175 South Franklin St., is moving across the street by April 1. The move will double the store's space, said Alicia Smith of Juneau, who co-owns the store with her husband Roger Smith.

Rag Doll, a clothing boutique owned by Alana Ballam-Schwan and Rebecca Canaday, closed at the end of January after nearly two years at 245 Marine Way. Business wasn't good enough to keep going, Ballam-Schwan said.

The space they left will be filled by glass-maker Cha, who is opening a distribution center for glass and gold jewelry and art prints. She recently sold her South Franklin Street space to its next-door neighbor, Grandfather Frost's.

The Red Dog Saloon, at 278 South Franklin St., changed hands Jan. 1. David Coates of Ketchikan, and Eric and Tracy Forst, Toni and Neale Murphy, and Doug Trucano, all of Juneau, bought the saloon from Don and Rose Harris. Their only planned change to the historic saloon is to enlarge the gift area, Coates said.

The Alaskan Fudge Co. is still open at its 195 South Franklin Street location, but is leaving its 387 South Franklin St. store.

"We were forced out of that other location because the rent was too high. It more than doubled," said Blue Bergmann, who owns the company with his wife Deb Bergmann.

He said he's keeping the equipment from that store but isn't actively looking for another storefront.

The Kodiak Coat Co., at 174 South Franklin St., is closing at the end of March after about 23 years, according to owner Bridget Milligan. It has been in Juneau for at least a decade, she said.

Milligan came to Alaska looking for an Alaska adventure. Her coat company was born after people started asking about the coats she made for her children. Now she's 63 and wants to fish and sail her boat more.

"Running a business takes your whole life," she said. "I just want to go back to that lifestyle."

City Finance Director Craig Duncan cautioned that it's hard to spot trends, even with the sales tax returns, registration and closures businesses must file with his department.

It's harder still to attribute causes, since there are a number of reasons a business might expand or shrink, open or close.

"There's too many variables to break them all down," he said.

• Contact reporter Kate Golden at 523-2276 or

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