By Jasz Garrett
Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – This year, the Juneau Public Market hosted over 160 vendors– 120 at Centennial Hall and 40 at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. 48 of those vendors were new to the event.
The 40th annual Public Market was celebrated with the choral group Vox Borealis and the Juneau Cello Group spreading Christmas cheer.
Operator of the Public Market, Peter Metcalfe, shared how he has seen the event grow over the years.
“In 1983, we were one of the first events in Centennial Hall and I think it was the first market-like event here in Centennial Hall. We opened in the Sheffield Ballroom. We had about close to 90 spaces and we were full up on the way out and have been ever since,” he recalled. “We began expanding to the whole building in 1992 and the JACC in 2007. It’s grown accordingly. We did not expand until we had too many people on our waitlist to accommodate.”
He said while it’s been busy from the start, deciding to make it an exclusive Thanksgiving weekend market has made it into what it is today.
“In the early years, we held a summer, fall, and spring market. I noticed that if it was particularly good weather, we had a real decline,” he said. “I realized that the sweet spot was Thanksgiving weekend, you know, Black Friday and all that. So, we just limited it to once a year and I have no regrets over that.”
Now, in 2023, the Public Market is the first sign that Christmas is on its way.
Metcalfe said that the feedback this year has exceeded all compliments of the past.
“Vendors, especially those from out of town, who are new to Juneau, are kind of dazzled. It’s not just because we run a good market — we do. But it’s mostly because of the people of Juneau who are so friendly and so accepting,” he said. “They buy the products. I’ve heard more than one vendor telling me this year that on Friday, they exceeded by 25% all sales of any market anywhere that they participated in. That’s huge.”
Corrine Nesgoda has been attending the Public Market since 2009. She draws her inspiration for her beautiful, fragile glass window art from Juneau’s beaches and winterscapes.
“The snowflakes are an interesting story. That’s the first thing that I started with. I decided I had to buy some good boxes because you can’t put a product like this in just a bag. So, I looked into buying boxes and I had to buy 500 to get bulk,” she said. “I told my friend I am never going to sell 500 snowflakes! In selling, I numbered each of the snowflakes and I think the last one that I numbered was like 1,263. Juneau has been very good to me.”
A new Public Market vendor, Fu Bao Hartle, was showing off his photography of Alaska.
“I did my photography business a year ago today. Last fall, we started up a photography business. My own photography business,” Hartle said during Saturday’s market. “It’s called Photos by Fu Bao.”
Jen Loofbourrow came from Anchorage for the second year in a row. She’s the owner and founder of Alpine Fit. Her woman-owned small business features merino wool and recycled materials, one with silver in it. Her creative use of textiles and fibers makes her outdoor gear odor-resistant, quick to dry, and sun-protective any time of the year.
“I’m all about versatility,” she said.
Alpine Fit received the Small Business Administration’s woman-owned Small Business of the Year award for the Alaska district, and one of her base layer shirts was featured for being the ‘best hiking top’ in Outside Magazine. On top of that, she won the state’s Manufacturer of the Year award.
Loofbourrow added she has family in Juneau that she gets to visit for a hearty Thanksgiving dinner before her weekend at the market.
“Juneau’s so welcoming,” she said. “I’ve encouraged other vendors to come here because of that.”
Metcalfe added that the local experience Public Market brings creates that warm, holiday atmosphere. He thinks this plays a part in vendors choosing to sell their work in Juneau time and time again.
“We can all go on the internet and buy whatever we want. But what we can’t do is interact with the people who make the product. And you can here,” he remarked. “It’s just fun meeting these people and they’re so creative and productive. They’re from all over the place.”
He said he’s adapted the phrase ‘from Bellingham to Dillingham and beyond’.
Metcalfe also added a thank you to his workers who helped make Public Market happen.
“I would like to thank and praise my workers. We have a lot of young workers, and people have noticed that. Many of them are family members or the children of friends of ours. We start them at 14. I can only judge from what the vendors tell me and they say, these kids are the best,” he said. “They’re very helpful for the vendors and I think they’re greeting the public well. Many adults in Juneau had their first job at the Public Market.”
The Public Market has not only a jolly effect but an economic impact as well.
Metcalfe noted that the sales tax collected over the weekend is substantial, and many vendors stay in local hotels. But he said that’s not the only impact he’s noticed. Many vendors who come to the Public Market often test market their products. He said he’s seen at least a dozen businesses that have opened in Juneau that first showed up at the Public Market in the last 40 years.
He’s also seen vendors who started in a Public Market booth expand to their own retail storefront.
If someone new is interested in participating as a vendor for Public Market next year, Metcalfe said the best way is to reach out via their website. On there, they can find an online application that only takes a few minutes to complete.