Juneau shoppers crowd stores for last-minute gifts

Businesses bustle with the last burst of holiday traffic

Posted: Tuesday, December 25, 2007

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, cars backed up for 400 yards on Egan Drive in-bound waiting to make the turn into Fred Meyer as last-minute shoppers flooded into the parking lot. Early afternoon traffic in the narrow streets of downtown was fairly light and traffic at Nugget Mall seemed steady.

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"For a Monday morning, the mall is way packed," said Alex Musser, owner of Gravity Plan, a new sports shop in the mall specializing in snowboards and skateboards. He said the last-minute shoppers caught him of guard on Christmas Eve. "I wasn't prepared," he said.

Mostly buying small items, shoppers picked up goggles, tools and gloves for gifts, Musser said.

Across the mall in the isles of Nugget Alaskan Outfitter, 10-year-old Joslyn Skinner confessed, "Last-minute shoppers, that's us!"

She joined four siblings and her parents on a Christmas Eve shopping excursion throughout town. The Skinners had just come from Ketchikan for a 10-day Christmas ski vacation at Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Joslyn's mother, Kimberly Skinner, said the family drew secret Santa names on Christmas Eve morning and expected to spend the day shopping all over town to fill their lists.

"We have a road map for the day," she said.

At Hearthside books, where the hot sellers closing out holiday shopping were "Eat, Love, Pray," and the "Golden Compass" series, Ron Josephson searched the birding books looking to pick up a final gift for his wife. Done shopping for his wife and two sons, he was taking one last look for gifts.

For eight years Josephson has bought bird books for his wife, an avid birder, who likes all things birds.

"The challenge is remembering which ones I've already gotten for her," he said.

Shoppers snatched up a little bit of everything at the high-end kitchen store Gourmet Alaska. Spoons shaped like construction equipment were a big seller on the last day of the season, according to Gourmet Alaska owner Bill Wright. Knifes were big sellers too.

With most of his list checked off, Bob Lupro walked through the mall on a mission for gifts for his wife. With silicone baking pans and a LeCreuset frying pan in hand, Lupro said he was doing some "freestyle shopping."

"I came to the mall to see what struck my fancy," he said.

As the local shops and major chain stores pulsed with people looking to bring cheer to friends and family with a last-minute gift or two, a group of volunteers busied themselves wrapping the goodies at a Juneau Nutrition Program holiday fundraiser set up in an unused storefront at the mall.

"It's slower than past years for Christmas Eve wrapping," said Larry Bussone, of Juneau Senior Services.

The pace of gift-wrapping was not necessarily a telltale sign for mall shoppers alone because people bring gifts from all over town to be wrapped at the fundraiser that aids Meals on Wheels. But, as with the previous 20 years, people are as giving as ever, Bussone said.

"One man came in and gave a $100 donation, and he didn't have anything to wrap," he said.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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