Skagway trolls for winter business

New Web site offers Skagway products

Posted: Thursday, November 30, 2000

Skagway, which makes most of its money in the summer, hopes to generate business in the winter through a new Web site.

The town of 800 booms during the busy tourist season, with as many as 8,000 visitors packing the boardwalks along Broadway on peak days.

More than 80 percent of the $4.6 million in sales tax revenue collected by the city this year comes from tourism-related commerce. More than 90 percent is generated between April and September.

Things go bust in the winter. Most of the downtown shops board up and year-round businesses limit hours.

"One person stuck waiting for a ferry in Skagway (a potential shopper) makes a big difference in the winter, whereas you won't even notice them in the summer," said Karla Ray, owner of the Klothes Rush, the Kone Kompany and Broadway Video. "The idea is to help businesses during the leaner months."

The new site,, lists 16 businesses offering everything from books and fudge to sculpture and jewelry. It went online Nov. 8.

Candice Wallace, director of the Skagway Economic Development Commission, said it had more than 1,200 hits on Tuesday.

"In rural areas, we have to reach out and grab someone," she said. "The goal of this program is to promote year-round commerce, which could increase year-round residency and year-round programs."

The Web page offers free shipping and handling over the next few months. The online catalog, which currently promotes holiday shopping, will change themes each quarter.

The Economic Development Commission, which is funded by the city, is covering the start-up costs. Businesses pay $50 each for a software program that helps process orders.

There are two criteria for selection to the site: All orders must be shipped from Skagway, and businesses have to be owned by either a year-round resident or a year-round employer.

"I can't imagine turning anyone down," Wallace said.

The plan is to expand the site and turn it over to a private organization after one year.

Shop owners may not be making many sales, but they support the project.

"No business yet, but I had some friends e-mail me saying it looks good," Taiya River Jewelry owner Casey McBride said. "It does connect us to the Outside, and I think it has a future."

Marj and John Harris own the Arctic Fire Studio, which features handmade masks and wire-wrapped jewelry. Their business usually closes in the fall.

"In the winter we have to survive on what we make in the summer and my income," said Harris, who is also the city clerk. "I think it's a fantastic tool for the community, allowing businesses to generate income on a year-round basis."

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