Reclaiming Downtown

As tourist traffic moves south, four Mendenhall Valley businesses are opening up new stores for locals downtown

Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

With four Mendenhall Valley stores opening second locations on Seward Street, downtown is poised to do business this summer and not only with tourists.

"I think it's a reclaiming of Seward Street by local business people," said Robert Cohen, owner of Capital Records, who recently opened a satellite store downtown to complement his shop in the Nugget Mall.

"With the building and usage of the new cruise ship dock, the strictly tourist businesses have moved further toward the dock leaving Seward Street available. The rents are reasonable for merchants interested in operating businesses downtown," Cohen said. "It's a great thing for downtown."

Along with Cohen, the owners of Northern Hot Spots Tanning Salon, Alaska Audio and Video and Northern Echoes Bible Shoppe - businesses located in the valley - will open second stores on Seward Street this month with hopes of expanding their market share of Juneau.

"We're definitely expecting a lot more traffic downtown," said Bobby Lowe, who owns Alaska Audio and Video and Northern Hot Spots Tanning Salon with his wife, Tyra. "The foot traffic will help spread the word that we're here and strengthen the backbone of our business as well as catering to crew members in the summer months."

The Lowes plan to open both businesses by the end of the month in the space that was formerly occupied by Stallone's Mens Store on Seward Street.

"The space (for Alaska Audio and Video) will be a little smaller than the valley store but we'll have everything available downtown that's in our valley store except the installation bays," where car stereos are installed, said Lowe.

"With two locations we're hoping to bring in more quality brand names in all types of consumer electronics," said Lowe, whose valley store is on Old Dairy Road. "We want to give Juneau as many options as possible."

Lowe also hopes to attract more tourists and crew members to Alaska Audio and Video's downtown location.

"We're going to carry video tapes, cameras, batteries, a small array of clothing and a few gift shop items for the tourists, but it's the crew members that we are mainly targeting regarding visitors," Lowe said. "They shop for everything from cameras to car audio and home theaters and bring it back to their families and friends in their countries."

While Lowe focuses on the electronic business, his wife and business partner, Tyra, is expanding Northern Hot Spots Tanning Salon to its downtown location with five tanning units.

"We have 10 booths in the valley but with this expansion, we'll increase our customer base and make it a lot more convenient for our downtown customers," said Tyra from the valley store on Jordan Avenue. "We have some customers who actually drive out here on their lunch hour from downtown so this second location will better accommodate our downtown customers."

For Irene and Shawn Hunstock, owners of Northern Echoes Bible Shoppe in the Airport Shopping Mall, adding a downtown store also was about accommodating customers.

"Basically, the downtown store is about convenience for people who live or work downtown," said Irene Hunstock. "The majority of our inventory will still be in the valley. We'll deliver stuff to the downtown store to make it convenient for people."

Cohen, of Capital Records, also plans to make daily deliveries between his valley and downtown stores.

"The downtown shop will be a satellite store. Due to space limitations, we're not going to carry the full selection that we carry in the valley," said Cohen. "We'll have the hit and popular material at the downtown store, but we'll also carry the more experimental and fringe categories of music to cater to the downtown crowd."

The downtown location also will house a recording studio that will provide composing, producing and engineering services.

"I'll offer musician services and recording opportunities to Southeasters as well as working on my own compositions and recording projects," Cohen said. "I've been thinking about this for a few years now, and this year the right opportunity just came up."

Along with the recording studio, both Capital Record locations will launch a DVD and VCR rental business this summer that will focus on foreign, art and music-driven films, said Cohen.

"It's a great opportunity to expand," said Cohen, who is planning a grand opening for the Seward Street store in early July. "I love the people, the atmosphere and the business of downtown. Plus, I live downtown and now I can roll out of bed and be at work."

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