off of Benson Boulevard in Anchorage, shoppers can find a holiday gift for $10 or an original painting by Rie Munoz for $1,000.
Two Friends, owned by real-life friends Jacqui Ertischek and Georgia Blue, is a combination of the owners' passion for art and love for quality crafts.
On Tuesday, customers were selecting handcrafted Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling and from the window displays.
One woman exclaimed, "I never knew you were here," while paying for her purchases.
Blue said she hears that comment every day, but that doesn't mean Two Friends hasn't spread by word of mouth. She and Blue have gained loyal customers from Juneau, Kodiak and the Anchorage area, for instance.
"Anchorage has been good to us," Bluesaid. "We have our family and friends here. We're at the age where that's important to us."
Giving back to the community is also important for Ertischek and Blue. Each month, Two Friends donates a portion of all sales to a nonprofit organization. This month, proceeds go toward Camp Fire USA Alaska Council programs.
Ertischek and Blue opened Two Friends in July 2009. With Blue's 20 years of knowledge working at the Anchorage Museum and Ertischek's craftsmanship as an artist, they were determined to open a store that would take in new and pre-owned art for consignment and sell unique crafts.
"We didn't know what kind of art would come through the front door," Blue said.
Since opening the gallery, Two Friends has received artwork from Alaskan artists such as Fred Machetanz and Dale De Armond, in addition to Alaska Native dolls, Japanese prints, Navajo blankets and even hanging mobiles from Alexander Calder.
For consignment items, prices can range from $25 to $35,000, while crafts can cost as little as $3.50. In addition to hanging artwork, Two Friends carries handcrafted jewelry, clothing, kitchen items and more.
Cost aside, Blue said there are profound stories that are attached to each piece of artwork. As we walked around the gallery, Ertischek pointed out which artists were alive and which have passed. She knew whether a piece was sold by a family member, or if someone found an original painting at a garage sale. If Blue is unfamiliar with an artist's work (which I'm guessing is highly unusual), she said she does her research.
"It's a niche that we're filling," Blue said in response to the gallery's consigned art. "A person can keep artwork alive. They can be enjoyed by someone."
Blue urges shoppers to stop by Two Friends Gallery if you're thinking of recycling your art, or starting your own art collection.
"Enjoy the variety," Blue said. "There's art that is still vibrant; they just need new homes."
341 East Benson Blvd. #3
Anchorage, AK 99503
Kelly McLain can be reached at kelly(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Update: This article originally misattributed quotes from Georgia Blue to Jacqui Ertischek.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing