Business owners moving on after fire

Some shop owners are relocating their stores; some are planning to build

Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Instead of talking to customers and creating displays on Monday, Lisa Ryals sat on the floor of her smoke-damaged downtown business filling out insurance paperwork amid paint cans and torn green carpeting.

"You've got to roll with what comes when you're in business," said Ryals, 30, who owns Lisa Davidson's Boutique on Seward Street. "This is just another thing to roll with."

Like dozens of store owners, she faced questions of inventory replacement or even relocation after an Aug. 15 fire destroyed some businesses and spewed smoke into others. Unlike many, she still has a location and a tentative reopening date.

Ryals' store sustained heavy smoke damage from the fire at the Skinner building, just down the block at Front and Seward streets. Clothing and handbags absorbed the smoke and cannot be resold at full retail.

She calls the following Monday "shock day," because she realized her inventory was ruined.

By that Tuesday, Ryals decided to have a fire sale to recoup some of her losses. She decided to stay in business.

She is hoping to reopen Oct. 1, which also marks her ninth anniversary doing business in Juneau. She plans to offer a new store look and fashions for women.

The Juneau native said her loyal customers were an inspiration to keep going.

Customers are keeping their eyes open for a new location where Bernadine Peterson and Brian Lupro can reopen their nail salon, Nail Jazz. Every piece of equipment in the salon was destroyed by the fire, but they had insurance to cover the losses, Peterson said Monday. They want to find a new location downtown and are waiting for the best opportunity, she said. Aug. 20 would have marked their ninth year doing business in Juneau.

"This is hard, hard on us because it (the location) was perfect," Peterson said. "The influx of tourism is nice, but it's a nice location for locals."

The fire was bad timing for Alaska Cruise Ship Services, which opened the first week in May, said manager Mary Giuliani. The company, which provides phone and Internet service to crew members, has a location in Skagway and decided to expand to Juneau this season, she said.

Business here was about one-third of that in Skagway and the fire eliminated all business for 10 days, she said. The company did not have fire insurance coverage, so it lost an investment of 30 telephone lines, furniture and other equipment. The company has relocated to the building on Front Street that houses Pasta Express.

Giulani installed 12 telephone lines for crew members through the end of the cruise ship season, but the company likely will not return to Juneau next season, she said.

Gail Waltzer, owner of Ahhh Massage, has not found a new location for her business, she said Monday. Waltzer, who shared space with chiropractor Andrea Iverson, is waiting for Iverson to return to town so they can decide what to do next. Waltzer did not have fire insurance coverage and is relying on income from a part-time job at SouthEast Alaska Health Consortium. Colleagues donated a massage table and sheets to help out, she said.

For Subway co-owner Wade Bryson, the fire was a blessing in some ways, he said.

Ten days after the fire, Bryson and his wife, Christine, had a baby girl, MaryEllen. Now he can spend more time with his family while he rebuilds the business, he said.

"It was kind of fortunate timing if anything," Bryson said.

Bryson had a lot of fire coverage, which will allow him to build a new store downtown and replace his 10-year-old equipment. He also was fortunate to have just completed the purchase on the business April 20 after operating it for years, he said.

He laid off three high school students and transferred five employees to his Subway in the Mendenhall Valley, he said.

A Subway field representative was in town last week looking at sites, he said. Now they're doing a study to see which location would be best, he said.

Bryson wants to reopen next spring before the summer tourism season, he said.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at

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