Public Market: For Christmas and beyond

Juneau's annual craft and food fest offers an alternative to fruitcakes

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Think Christmas. Think buying. Think arts, crafts, chocolate and sweaters. In Juneau, after Thanksgiving, think no further than the Juneau Public Market.

Every year for 19 years Peter Metcalfe has rented Centennial Hall to stage a public market la Pike Place Market in Seattle. This year, he and more than 150 vendors, 34 new to the market and five returning after several-year hiatuses, are holding the market again.

The market will be held from noon to 8 p.m. Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $3.50 for adults and $1.50 for children under 12. Weekend and two-day passes are available.

Metcalfe and the vendors hope Juneau residents will find the vendors' wares to their liking. If previous years are any indication, the vendors and customers won't be let disappointed.

"Juneau was our best show last year," said Carol Bodley of the River Knife Co. in Eagle River. She and her husband, Ted, and daughter Jeanine Frisbee will have a booth at the public market for the third time.

The family sells knives, including ulus and filleting knives, cutting boards, ulu bowls and a spice blend at more than 35 shows a year across Alaska, said Carol Bodley. Juneau's crowd is one of the best, she said, and the show is well run.

"It's a good little show," she said. "It's certainly well attended, and people come and spend money and it's good for everyone."

Roughly half of the vendors at the show this year are from Juneau and three-quarters are from Southeast Alaska, Metcalfe said. The rest are from Alaska, except for three from Washington and one from Arizona.

Vendors will be selling items ranging from dream catchers, stained glass, jewelry, and scented lotions to photos, calendars and chiropractic advice.

Jim Hopkins, a fossil ivory jewelry maker from Gold Canyon, Ariz., is returning to the show for the first time since the early 1990s, he said. Hopkins, the former owner of the Rainsong Gallery in Juneau, will sell jewelry he made by hand out of fossil ivory from St. Lawrence Island, west of Nome in the Bering Sea. He has been making the jewelry for 18 years.

"Back in the early days of the Public Market there was a number of artists who had their own stores. It's hard to imagine that, now that Franklin Street is mostly T-shirts and the galleries have gone by the wayside," Hopkins said.

Rainsong Gallery still sells his work, and he travels to several shows in Arizona to sell his craft as well. This year he's sharing a booth with Juneau potter Kathleen Wiest.

Though the market reached its full capacity 10 years ago - "I could fill up another building of the same size," Metcalfe said - the show has a natural turnover, ensuring that no two shows are exactly the same.

"I've tried very hard to keep it from being a static event," Metcalfe said. "I try not to exercise personal judgment, but over time the quality of goods has gotten much better. Those who don't have high-quality goods don't do so well and tend to not come back."

One of the vendors filling a vacancy this year is Dot Ensley, owner of the Franklin Street store Klondike Down.

"I tried to get in the show several years ago, but couldn't," Ensley said. This year she will take over selling BodySense - a product sold at previous Public Markets by her friend Mary DeSmet. BodySense is an aromatherapy herbal pack that can be heated in the microwave to provide a relaxing treat.

Ensley travels to several craft shows in the winter as a way to reach Alaska customers who don't visit her downtown store.

"You've got to reach outside of Franklin Street, and (the shows) are my attempt to reach them," she said. She also will sell mink blankets at the market - a winter product that she hopes will be popular at this winter event.

Christine Schmid can be reached at

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