Management and tenants at the Nugget Mall were surprised earlier this month to learn that the anchor department store Gottschalks will move to the Mendenhall Mall, but say they are optimistic about the Nugget's future.
Gottschalks officials said the move to larger space at the Mendenhall Mall, planned for mid to late July, will allow the store to carry more merchandise in a more comfortable setting.
Bud Jaeger, property manager for Nugget Mall, said that while there was "some mental adjustment to be made to the news," the mall is "aggressively seeking tenants."
He said the effort would include putting out feelers into cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks for businesses that might welcome a chance to expand into Juneau if sufficient retail space were available.
Jaeger feels certain the mall will continue to do well in spite of the loss of the anchor store, saying it is home to a well-rounded variety of enterprises, many of which are "destination" shops - which bring in shoppers in search of particular goods or services.
Tenant Bill Wright, owner of Gourmet Alaska, which deals in specialty foods, specialized cookware and home-brewing supplies, predicted little change to his operation aside from perhaps some increase in advertising.
John Johnson, of Kaybee Toys, has been at the mall for about nine years. While he said he is "a little worried" about the mall, he said he offers better value than his competition elsewhere in town, so he is optimistic about the future of his business in its present location.
Pat De Alexandro, manager of GNC, which markets vitamins, supplements, health and nutritional items, said he might see some loss of floor traffic after Gottschalks moves out, but he believes that his store will continue to do well.
At the other end of the mall, just outside the furniture store Jensen's, shoppers at a cluster of little tables paused for a quick lunch from the counter at Peter's Oriental Food. Manager Chris Nguyen sounded the note of deepest concern.
He said his sales had increased significantly since Gottschalks came to the mall in September 2000, which he attributed largely to the young people attracted to that store.
Nguyen said that with the big store's departure there could be far fewer young people visiting the mall, and he would lose business from Gottschalks' employees as well. That could mean a drop of as much as 25 percent in his business, Nguyen said.
Jamie Letterman, marketing director for the Nugget Mall, said the loss of Gottschalks would have no effect on promotional and community events organized and sponsored by her office.
"It's definitely going to be interesting," she said, "but we will continue to do the community affairs and events that also draw folks to us," citing the Father's Day miniature golf recently held in the hall, as well as events such as Halloween trick-or-treating and the annual arts and crafts fair.
Referring to herself as "the eternal optimist," she smiled and said, "We still have great stores to draw the shoppers in."
Phil Greeney is a free-lance writer living in Juneau. He can be reached at Bigdawg1@alaska.com.