Yesterday was the big day - Kennecott Trading Company is now open for the 2017 season. I've been working at store set up almost every day since arriving to McCarthy and it's looking great.
I think managing this store might be the best job in the world, though Austin says flying over America's largest National Park everyday is stiff competition. Each spring I'm given a sum of money and told to buy whatever I think travelers would want to purchase while vacationing here. My boss (and friend) is always available if I need help or have questions but is thankful that he, largely, is uninvolved with the shopping.
Many other souvenir shops in this state display Alaskana themed gifts but if you turn over the merchandise you read "made in Taiwan". I suspect if I were a tourist making a commemorative purchase I'd wish my item were actually made where I vacationed. Therefore, (and also because I love working with Alaskan artists) when you visit my store you'll note that almost everything is Alaskan-made. We boast beautiful wood-turned bowls from a world-renowned mountaineering guide (Wassilla, AK), apparel designed and hand screen printed by a friend in her home (Chugiak, AK), delicious taffy and fudge by Alaskan confectioners (Anchorage, AK), high-end and customized jackets constructed and sewn in-state (Cordova, AK where my brothers fish - check out Will's and Jesse's blogs!), and our best selling merchandise comes from a jewelry artist in our own valley who owned and operated our very store for years and years. This is a very small taste of what we provide. I also love that the prices of our treasures range from $ to $$$$. There's a little (or big) something for everyone.
Once my shopping is accomplished, wholesale purchases are made in the spring, and I land in Alaska the really fun work begins. When I first arrived in Kennecott, turned the key, and opened the door I found display furniture and boxes of merchandise from last season blanketed in a fine layer of dust. Here and there were new piles of boxes that had arrived at our mail shack prior to my own arrival and awaited my opening them with eagerness rivaling that of Christmas morning: "Oh, wow! These turned out great! People are going to love this!"
Subsequest trips up to Kennecott ("trips" is a great word here as it is a 35 - 45 minute four-wheeler commute to the store from my cabin) are followed by hours of unpacking a box, counting the items inside, comparing numbers to the invoice, noting any price increases from previous years, printing barcodes and prices, tagging each item, and setting it all aside so I can repeat the process for the following 40+ boxes of merchandise.
Once every individual item has been addressed, I clean the furniture and organize and display our treasures. Ceramics might pair well with fine art prints. The aromatic nature of hand-made soaps draw customers to locally picked and pressed flowers embedded within glassware. This part of the set up takes several days. It is amazing how a display will draw or repel customers: an overly full area communicates to a potential buyer's subconscious, "nobody else wants this so I won't spend time looking here" while a display with sparse items says, "this is picked over already." There's a fine line between the two.
The final appearance of the store is my work-of-art and like any masterpiece, is time consuming. Though I was more prepared for this preseason receiving, displaying, and setup than I have been in previous years and spent several very long days working with great help I'm also opening later than I ever have. I'm attributing this to difficulties in having a teething, running, climbing, limited napping 17-month-old with a cold at the store everyday. We could really only get work accomplished while she was napping. Anyone want to volunteer to be my unpaid nanny next summer, say in late May to early June? Yeah?
Since you stuck around to the end of this rambling blog, how about some pictures to make it worthwhile?