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What's up with that?

The Empire ponders Juneau's puzzles, unravels its mysteries and contemplates its conundrums.

Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2002

Q: Along the channel side of Egan Drive, midway between Sunny Point and the wetlands viewing platform, there's a small wooden sign about 50 feet off the road. Given the speed of traffic on the highway and the size of the sign, I can never make out what it says. It seems to be in an illogical place for a sign if anyone is supposed to read it. What's up with the text of that sign, and why is it there?

A: Your What's Up With That researcher donned boots and trudged out through the mud, in the rain - uphill both ways - to see what the sign had to say. In faded yellow, moss-covered letters, it reads:

Mendenhall Refuge

AK Dept. Fish & Game

Anne Post, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, said the sign was erected several years ago as a service project by a local Boy Scout.

Post said it became apparent that the sign was hard to see from the road and might be better suited to another location, but it was never moved because doing so was a low-priority project and because the sign has developed other functions.

"It's a nice roost for crows and ravens," she said. "It doesn't seem to be harming anything."

Post said she passes the sign on the way to work every day and has hoped no one would cause an accident while trying to read it. We hope this column will keep that from happening.

Also observed while walking to see the sign was a tremendous amount of litter - old tires, soda cans, potato chip bags and so on - scattered throughout the Mendenhall Wetlands along that stretch of Egan Drive. Thanks to everyone who spent time picking up trash around town last Friday and Saturday, but it's clear that there is a lot of clean-up work that still needs to be done.

Q: Maybe everyone else on the West Coast knows this, but I just moved to Juneau and I want to know what's up with Fred Meyer? Who is the guy behind the store?

A: Fred G. Meyer (1886-1978) was the founder of the retail chain the bears his name. He founded his first grocery store in Portland, Ore., in the 1920s, and over the decades the chain grew and spread across the western United States.

By the time the Fred Meyer chain merged with The Kroger Company in 1999 - creating the nation's largest retail grocery firm - Fred Meyer had grown from the single Portland grocery store into a chain of almost 800 stores in 12 states, including Alaska. The chain had annual sales of about $15 billion that year.

Meyer was born in Brooklyn, and at age 19 he journeyed to the western United States, spending some time in Alaska. In 1909 he settled in Portland and entered the coffee trade. After establishing a door-to-door coffee business and creating a coffee outlet in downtown Portland, he left that high-caffeine world and put his money and effort into the grocery store that would develop into the regional chain.

Juneau's Fred Meyer store opened in 1984.

Most of the biographical information included here was found on the Web site of the Meyer Memorial Trust, a foundation established in 1982 under a directive from Meyer's will. Its Web address is www.mmt.org. There is extremely little to be found about the history of the Fred Meyer chain on its own Web site - www.fredmeyer.com - but, interestingly, there is an in-depth timeline of the development of The Kroger Co.

What's Up With That is in need of your questions. Like the reservoirs around Juneau the past few months, we're using up what we have - questions, not water.

With cruise ships and tourists back in town, the Legislature getting ready to wrap up another session, the days getting ever longer, the temperature eventually getting warmer - there must be something that you're wondering about. If you want us to track down the answers, send your questions by e-mail to whatsup@juneauempire.com; by mail to the Empire at 3100 Channel Drive, Juneau, AK 99801; or give Mel Cheek or Andrew Krueger a call at 586-3740.



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