Local businesses continue to depend on local shoppers, vaccine rollout

One of the local sales keeping Oomingmak surviving through the pandemic.
One of the local sales keeping Oomingmak surviving through the pandemic.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 6:19 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Many have said that there is a light at the end of the tunnel that is the pandemic with the vaccine beginning to roll out. While it is there, many local businesses are limping towards it. After Tuesday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting, it’s even more clear that not everyone is going to make it.

On Tuesday, Anchorage residents were seen holding up cardboard tombstones for the Assembly members to see. On them, the names of local businesses that had to close. Residents in attendance blamed the emergency orders that have severely disrupted their businesses while the orders attempted to slow the spread of the virus. There were 79 in total.

Not far from City Hall, Hillery Baerny at Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-Operative said they could have been one of those names.

“Extremely unfortunate,” she said. “I know that was one of the possibilities for the co-op and we’re lucky enough that that didn’t happen.”

She said it didn’t happen because of local shoppers and aid money.

Oomingmak is about as Alaskan as a store can get up here. Baerny explained that producers from rural villages use musk ox fur obtained from sustenance hunters to make different kinds of warm clothing. Baerny said their main customers are tourists, so they took a big hit during the pandemic.

However, Alaskans picked up the slack.

“We had people going, ‘I’ve always wanted one, and why not get it now,’” Baerny said.

There’s also help to get people in the store from places like the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.

Executive Director Amanda Moser said they had to change the way they do everything to stimulate the local economy.

They’ve done things like Downtown Dining Bingo, scavenger hunts, they helped close downtown streets so restaurants could seat more people outside, help get more parking spots for curbside delivery, and a lot of other things they didn’t do before the pandemic because they didn’t have to.

The latest effort is called Shop and Dine. Moser said it’s kind of like a lottery. When you shop in a participating store, you get entered to win two round trip tickets with Alaska Airlines.

“We want to find ways to bring folks together. We want to be safe. And we want to follow the mandates. But we are looking for ways to bring folks together,” Moser said. “And we recognize that when you spend money here in Anchorage, 40-60 cents on every dollar stays right here in our community.”

Right with our neighbors, friends and family; each of those pennies doing what they can to keep more tombstones from going up.

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