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It was a sad day last week when we gathered in Troxel's for the last time and wished the establishment well in whatever future it has. This, however, has deeper meaning for the people of Juneau and too many of us don't realize what exactly is happening here.
For a series of years, all we witnessed in Juneau was stores closing, windows going blank, and our options narrowing as proprietors found it harder and harder to contend with the isolationist mentality that defines Juneau. When Troxel's opened less than a year ago, it was a great victory for the people of Juneau. Not only did it end a history of gut-wrenching meals by bringing in a new and fresh menu that was served to exacting standards and a great taste - it was a store opening! The people of Juneau rejoiced. It seemed that we may have seen a reversal of a deadly trend.
The people of Juneau were so happy that we all flooded to Troxel's, and dined and drank and had a great time in our newest attraction. The owners kept true to a business model that seemed to be based on variety - if you keep the customers wondering, they'll keep wandering back in - and the restaurant became a mainstay of the Juneau dining culture. Unfortunately not everyone was enthused, and a minority group of disgruntled and, dare I say, selfish people tried to shut down what surely was a glimmer of hope in dark economic times.
We the people of Juneau can no longer afford to remain cut off from the rest of Alaska. It is this isolation that is killing small business in our community. The reason half of the shops downtown are empty is because we continue to bow to the will of minority interest groups that want to keep Juneau for themselves.
I say, share Juneau with the world! If we had the Juneau access road, not only would our community thrive from the benefit of being physically connected to the rest of the country, but that same connection would be the driving force behind a much-needed population growth in Juneau. It would be the driving force behind lowering the cost of housing, cleaning up our communities, repairing the garbage buildings that spot our streets. The demand for new developments to accommodate the new people of Juneau would rise at a rate we could not ignore.
These new homes, new people and lower cost of living would invite business back into Juneau. Small shop-owners like my dear friends downtown would not need to worry about making it through winter until the next tourist season, and entrepreneurs who take the risk of starting a restaurant in this town would not be forced to shutter.
I know that I speak for the majority of us when I say the Troxels will be missed, and that I will be among the first to dine at your new location when you open your doors in the near future. If there is a lesson to be learned today, it is that we can ill afford to continue with business as usual. If we continue to do what we have always done, we will continue to get what we have always gotten. You all can see the pattern, the trend: Juneau is dying and unless we change the way we conduct ourselves, and the way we think and feel about growing and developing into a thriving community, there will be no stopping it. None of us wants the Capital to move the Anchorage, but you can't conduct government from a ghost town.