This is an installment of Shop Talk, an occasional series of interviews with business owners in Alaska, focusing on the state economy and how it is affecting them.
At running specialty store Skinny Raven Sports, new owner Daniel Greenhalgh is fed up with stories about Alaska's recession.
The tough economy won't be the end of the business, he said, but it is forcing a re-evaluation of how the company measures success. Greenhalgh talked to the Anchorage Daily News about how Skinny Raven, which has two locations in Anchorage, has been making it in the downturn.
Tell me a little bit about how the recession is affecting Skinny Raven right now.
Yes, the economy has provided some unique challenges. However, from that, there's a lot of opportunities. And those aren't just raising your top-line sales. Those are things like finding ways to reinvest in the community when everybody else is pulling back.
I would say the economy has allowed us to look at our business differently and instead of focusing on this month being up or down, it might be focusing on: are we running our business commensurate with what the economy and our consumers are allowing us to do? … I'm absolutely focused on the bottom line more than ever. It's just that I'm not relying on growth… that's not how I'm determining success right now.
How are you adapting right now?
For us, it's just looking at ways to connect to our customer … looking toward that casual athlete that wouldn't call themselves a runner and engaging them in our business… For our Small Business Saturday, instead of offering a discount, we're …giving away a percentage of our proceeds to these three charities. And then also giving the people of Anchorage fun, enjoyable things to do. … It's not just a retail proposition. It needs to be a holistic community proposition in my mind.
Looking to the future, what are your biggest concerns?
I feel like (the recession) is breaking already. One part optimism, and one part, people can only stand and suffer for so long. I definitely feel like we are starting to see signs of opportunity.
If you can be specific, what are some signs?
We started to see some of our sales numbers bounce back. We've started to see our race numbers stabilize. I've always been a buy-what-you-need kind of person. Here we're like — I'd rather sell you fewer quality items than a bunch of junk you don't need. And so maybe that's the appeal.
I'm over (the recession). Not as a businessman — as an Alaskan, I'm over it. I'm sick of the stories about, you know, the crime and drugs. … I know there's people that are progressive and doing great things in this town, and I want us to work together. It's not 1985. We're from here. Yeah, Anchorage is a city in transition, there's strong, resilient people here. … It's not like we're in rescue or survival mode at this point. I think we're in very much a strategic position where we're saying, "Hey, where do we want to be next December?"
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.