In downtown Anchorage, a quiet holiday season and an uncertain future

Second Run owner Jaylene Colombie at her downtown Anchorage store on Dec. 8, 2020. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

In downtown Anchorage, the holiday season is usually a busy time. Residents fill up seats to see the Nutcracker, attend the tree-lighting ceremony and pick out Christmas gifts. This year, with a hunker down order and increased COVID-19 transmission across the city, things look different.

“Downtown is just so quiet. There’s no cars parked in front of us for the mall, even,” said Jaylene Colombie, owner of Second Run, a consignment store on D Street. “It’s just very, very quiet down here.”

Colombie hasn’t lost any employees from her small team during the pandemic, but she’s trimmed down their hours.

Like other retail stores in the city, Second Run is operating at 25 percent capacity. But with so few people out, Colombie said they haven’t had problems staying under the limit. With an online selling presence and low overhead, Colombie said they haven’t had to consider closing, but she’s expecting business to stay slow well into 2021.

Second Run store owner Jaylene Colombie fixes a mannequin’s outfit at her downtown Anchorage store on Dec. 8, 2020. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

“I really have no idea what it’s gonna look like,” she said. “You would hope that the slowest months are behind us, but I don’t really see that as the case.”

With COVID-19 case numbers continuing to break records, Colombie said she thinks people are starting to take restrictions more seriously and stay home.

A quiet afternoon in downtown Anchorage on Dec. 8, 2020. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Amanda Moser, executive director of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, said many businesses are adapting to online ordering and curbside pickup to ease COVID-19 concerns and salvage the holiday season.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of shopping local,” she said. “When you are shopping at these businesses, 40 to 60 cents of every dollar stays in our community and goes right to your friends, neighbors and family.”

Instead of a tree-lighting event this year, the Downtown Partnership helped organize light installations throughout downtown streets for the month of December. They brought a Christmas tree from the Chugach National Forest and set up an ice rink in Town Square Park.

After the summer tourism season was crushed by COVID-19, Moser said the hope is to attract at least some of the usual crowd downtown during the holidays, to ease the sting of another blow to the local economy.

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