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Some Juneau shops opt to open year-round

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Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2012 9:48 am | Updated: 11:52 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

JUNEAU, Alaska - It takes special resilience to thrive during an Alaskan winter, especially if you own a year-round business in downtown Juneau.

A walk down South Franklin Street quickly reveals that many shop owners and workers that cater to summertime visitors follow the cruise ships on their last voyage south. Some intrepid souls carry on and provide shopping and entertainment to Juneau residents in the heart of winter. Several business owners shared their passion and strategy for having a prosperous winter, while serving loyal shoppers willing to brave the weather.

Jarrett Cherkas manages Red Lady Jewels and Curios on South Franklin Street. After its first summer open as a freestanding operation, the Red Lady plans to stay open for its first winter.

Cherkas said he runs the shop with his family.

"Mom, wife, baby, we're all doing part of it," Cherkas said. This brings down the cost of his pieces, he said.

Cherkas said he carries jewelry from "expensive" to relatively lower priced $20 to $300 range.

"I want to be there for the stocking stuffer people as well," the shop owner said.

Cherkas said the Red Lady's main focus is custom and art jewelry.

"For folks who want to make things from scratch."

Custom pieces often require the work of several specialists, he said. Engraving is usually one man's job, setting stones is its own specialty; certain types of metal work or inlay are another person's specialty. Cherkas said he brings all these artists and craftsman to bear on his custom jewelry.

"I'd call myself more of a director than an actor," Cherkas explained. "I focus on customer relations and the design element. Bringing customer's general ideas to a very specific vision, from a seed of an idea to a full-blown object. It's nice to be able to offer that kind of flexibility. I love doing custom work and people like to be a part of that creative process. There is something special about doing something from scratch as opposed to off the shelf."

This year marks the third winter season for Cycle Alaska. When John and Peggy McConnochie opened the retail side of their business they made a commitment to remain open year-round, John McConnochie said.

"It's difficult, but it's a critical piece for us," McConnochie said. The couple helped revitalize the corner near the Department of Labor building. They continue to innovate to keep their shop profitable.

"We're adding more and more each year," McConnochie said. Like edging and waxing for skis and snowboards.

Briana Swanson, operations manager for Cycle Alaska, said people often drop off bikes in the winter for repairs during the off-season. Some new riders come into the store to ask about bike commuting in the winter.

Studded tires, "they are great through snow," Swanson said. "And we always have fenders on hand." Commuters can also find lighting systems for the dark winter mornings and bikes geared toward winter commuting.

All of Cycle Alaska's 2012 bikes are currently on sale. Through the winter, the shop will offer tech classes on Saturdays and an adventure series to whet the appetites of riders that long for summer days of drier pavement and trails.

"We'll have guest speakers come in and share their bike stories," Swanson said. "We already have a few people set up to talk about touring trips they've done this past year."

Riders can learn about tire changes and how to set up bikes for commuting and installing fenders.

Cycle Alaska also plans to introduce riders to bikes with designs that work best in Juneau's winter conditions.

"We also have fat tire bikes in," Swanson said. "The tires are huge, three to four inches wide and made to ride on snow and sand."

Owners of the Red Dog Saloon typically keep its doors open through the holidays before placing the popular bar into hibernation until spring. This year, with a recently added mercantile store and freshly hired manager Tim Lucas, the Saloon will stay open all winter, saloon owner Eric Forst said.

Shoppers can warm up with hot wings or schnapps (21 and older please) and carry that glow into the well-lit mercantile store.

"Now you can go from the saloon into the mercantile gift shop without having to go outside into the weather," Forst said.

The Red Dog plans to open its venue this winter to Christmas parties, corporate events and seminars. Booking the room is free and event planners can take advantage of the bar's video projection system and wireless sound system, he said.

"Just bring people in and have a good time," Forst said.

Red Dog is offering its full winter menu with prime rib on the weekend and $5 hot wings during NFL games.

"And we're watching lots of football," Forst said.

Locals can expect to find First Friday events at the saloon as well as live music and dance nights.

"We're just trying to keep busy and let people know we're open way down here by the library," Forst said. "We're going to see what happens."

It's the end of an era at the quirky little coffee shop and café looking out on Marine Way.

"Unfortunately after 20 years the landlord is terminating our lease," Joan Deering, "head wrangler" and café owner said.

Deering said she plans to close shop the day before Thanksgiving. But all is not lost.

After closing shop Deering plans to bring the Paradise bike blender "and a case full of fruit and bananas and juice," to the Public Market for three days. While there, she and manager Allison Hardy will sell smoothies and hand out cards that say "It's our last year in Paradise" with directions to the new location in the Marine View building.

She said she expects to open her new storefront in mid to late January, with plenty of winter left to serve a few pastries and hot chocolates.

"I can't lose Paradise," Deering said. She said she needed to find a new home for the annual Folk Festival tradition of Bourbon Brunch.

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