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Shuttered businesses becoming more common in Anchorage

As some owners fight to keep their doors open, others have set their sights on reopening down the road
Marco T's Pizzeria, in Anchorage, is among those closing its doors after suffering severe...
Marco T's Pizzeria, in Anchorage, is among those closing its doors after suffering severe losses during the coronavirus pandemic.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 10:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Business owners can apply for grants by clicking here to visit the recently-launched AK Cares Program website.

As many Anchorage businesses attempt to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, others have stopped serving customers altogether.

Of the latter group, some have closed their doors only to hopefully reopen in the future.

“We originally opened, I’m going to say, in April of 2016,” said Mark Harlan, owner of Marco T’s Pizzeria. “It took two or three years to build up a rapport, a response.”

The pizzeria is a one-of-a-kind, Alaskan-owned local business, facing a situation that’s slowly but surely becoming run-of-the-mill: After several years in business on Fireweed Lane, the restaurant’s doors finally closed in June.

“Come March,” Harlan said, “when COVID was starting to travel around the world, I said, ‘Well, okay, we’re breaking even, keeping people employed.’ But on March 15th, we fell off the cliff.

“We adjusted our staff, adjusted our times, went to take out,” he said. “We struggled through march, because we weren’t being responsive quickly enough. In April, bare bones, still losing money, and at the end of May, we decided to pull the plug.”

Inside Marco T’s Pizzeria, the menu was still up on Tuesday, though all the tables and chairs had been stacked up on the edge of the dining room. Just as telling of the economic situation in Anchorage are the boarded-up windows at Reilly’s Irish Pub, the bar across the street from the restaurant.

Even those visuals, however, couldn’t point to exactly what the town is facing regarding the opening and closing of businesses in the area.

“It’s starting to become a little disturbing,” said Bill Popp of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, adding that Anchorage is down about 25 percent or so when you consider businesses that were open in January. That figure doesn’t include seasonal businesses that are only open in the summer months.

“We’re probably down 30, 35 percent that would normally be up and running this year,” Popp said, “and that’s all shapes and sizes.”

Still, for Harlan, there may be a future in food as he said he’s eyeing a reopening at a new location one day.

“I’m more excited about reopening,” Mark Harlan said. “I started once and stepped in many potholes, so I know what not to do now, moving forward. And I think we can improve upon what we’ve done and make it a better experience.”

For others trying to weather the storm, it’s fingers crossed that business starts booming again soon.

“All these different things we are dealing with that are challenges to our economy,” Popp said, “but there is hope on the horizon.

“For now, we have to protect what we have and try and keep as many businesses going as we can through this winter and into next year,” he said, “so we have a good foundation on which to rebuild our economic house.”

Those who could use CARES Act grant money to help with small business operations can now access assistance with more flexibility in eligibility. Click here to go to the recently-launched AK Cares Program website.

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