We are quickly approaching my favorite holiday, Shop Small Saturday! This holiday combines three of my love languages: small businesses, screaming deals and gifts. Shop Small Saturday celebrates small businesses and the unique and quirky flavor they bring to our community.
Downtown Anchorage has a plethora of extraordinary, funky, fashion-forward and fresh shops that are locally owned and operated. Those shops feature scores of inspired art, pottery and jewelry.
Downtown is Dena’ina Ełnena, and one meaningful way to celebrate Alaska’s 10,000-year history is to support Indigenous artists and makers. In a cabin on the corner of H Street and Sixth Avenue, Oomingmak is home to a musk ox producers’ co-operative. You can find scarves and stoles made of qiviut, which is shed naturally from musk ox during the spring months and hand-collected. This material is eight times warmer than wool and softer than cashmere. Two-hundred and fifty Alaskan women from remote coastal villages hand-knit each of these incredible pieces of wearable and cozy art.
On the corner of G Street and Fourth Avenue, Cabin Fever has an expansive collection of Alaska goods and Alaskan-produced art, jewelry and pottery. This is one of my favorite spots to find Sonya Kelliher-Combs earrings. Raised in the Northwest Alaska community of Nome of Iñupiaq, Athabascan, German and Irish descent, she’s an incredible mixed media painting and sculpture artist with work featured in the Anchorage Museum, throughout the United States and worldwide. She also makes stunning earrings, which are one of my favorite presents for myself and those I love.
Alaskans’ obsession with coffee is well documented, and has most recently been featured in a piece in Alaska Magazine. There is no better way to celebrate this nourishing and comforting beverage than through the appropriate vessel, a handcrafted mug, which doubles as a piece of art. Sevigny Studio on G Street has fantastic mugs from Theresa Westerwardbound of Canvas and Clay AK, which feature Alaskana from Xtratuf, fireweed, ravens and salmon. Stephan Fine Arts in the Hotel Captain Cook has delightful mugs by Jeff Szarzi of Homer that complement any caffeinated beverage. Tiny Gallery on Fourth Avenue has a collection of mugs from Rustic Clay AK and potter Haylie Travis, which are sure to bring extra warmth and joy to any cup of joe.
Our small businesses punch above their weight class with their benefits to the community. For example, they are more likely to buy goods from other local businesses than non-local suppliers, they spend a more significant percentage of their revenues on local payroll, and they donate a higher percentage of their revenues to local charities and causes.
There is no denying that online shopping is convenient, but small businesses are more likely to support a youth hockey or T-ball team in our community. In contrast, Jeff Bezos’ wealth, to use a terrible pun, rocketed by $79.4 billion during the pandemic, rising from $113 billion in March 2020 to $192.4 billion on July 31, 2021. As our friends and neighbors who own small businesses barely hung on, and some heartbreakingly closed, billionaires blasted with their wealth to outer space. Jeff doesn’t need any more of our dollars — our families, friends and neighbors do.
Throughout this pandemic, our downtown continues to bear the brunt of the impact of the 2020 closures, restrictions and cruise ship cancellations. This summer, we experienced a burst of activity as thousands of independent travelers visited Alaska, specifically downtown Anchorage. They brought a much-needed surge of economic activity with them as they lingered in our restaurants, bars, hotels, gift shops and public spaces. However, as we have transitioned into fall and winter, we have seen cancellations of conferences continue to impact our community negatively. It’s more important than ever to support our downtown and our small businesses to help navigate these dark months.
When you shop local, your money not only supports friends, neighbors, and fellow community members, it also continues to recirculate locally for ongoing benefit to our Anchorage economy. For every dollar spent at local business, 40-60 cents stays in the community. Supporting local makers and artists double downs on that investment. So commit to our community this holiday season and spend your dollars here in Anchorage. It will support a brighter holiday season for us all.
Amanda Moser is executive director of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.
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