Competition hits historic gem shop

Posted: Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ginger Blaisdell, owner of Dockside Jewelers on South Franklin Street, says she has good news: She's going out of business.

"I'm going out of business because I want to do something that is fresh and fun," said Blaisdell of Juneau.

She said the competition is too stiff to remain a jewelry-only shop. Blaisdell plans to convert her store to a fashion boutique after she sells off her inventory through December. The new business will include some of the store's designer jewelry.

Juneau has 19 jewelry stores, with seven more reportedly opening next year, according to downtown merchants. That number is a fraction of Ketchikan's 58 outlets, with another 20 to 30 gift shops also selling jewelry. Skagway has almost 30 shops.

Though separated by hundreds of miles of coast, the stores compete with each other, Blaisdell said.

For almost 100 years, proprietors in Blaisdell's location have sold jewelry to locals and tourists, though under different names and ownership. Blaisdell has owned the store since 2002.

Sales are down this season, according to several jewelry store managers.

"This summer has been a lot harder than last summer," said Cori Tocco, manager of The Jewel Box on Front Street. The streets are packed with tourists, but many do not want to part with their money, she said.

New York City-based Diamonds International, which has two stores downtown, is having it's annual sale a few weeks earlier this year to move out inventory before the season ends.

But general manager Daniel Rosenthal is not discouraged. Out of 100 stores nationwide, the company sold its biggest diamond in Juneau last year, he said.

"I think in the next five years, trends will change for the good," Rosenthal said.

Until then, Blaisdell hopes to see two improvements in the downtown sector she believes are a hindrance to businesses.

Blaisdell said a third of tourists she polled are not interested in shopping at stores north of the Red Dog Saloon. Among reasons given, tourists told her that the downtown center was not inviting.

"Our historic downtown is too darn ugly," she said. Many first-timers to Juneau aren't aware of more shops located further up the street, she added.

Blaisdell also pointed to problems from people hanging out at Gunakadeit Park, also known as "Pocket Park," at South Franklin and Front streets. She said she has replaced her store front window three times this year, due to people smashing it.

"I've shut people in my store for their own protection," Blaisdell said, because of fights she said occur next door. She said several times she has requested that the city increase lighting and control drunks in the area.

The Jewel Box manager said even though people at the park can be a nuisance, there are no plans to move the store.

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