Member Spotlight: Brown and Hawkins Mercantile

Q&A With Cliff and Linda of Brown and Hawkins Mercantile

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

Linda Chichester and Cliff Krug moved to Seward in 2015 and acquired the historic business, Brown and Hawkins Mercantile. This general store offers a unique assortment of apparel, jewelry, art, and home goods along with an assortment of Alaskan made treasures. They celebrate the 100+ years that Brown & Hawkins has served Seward locals and its visitors by maintaining a connection between yesterday and today through dynamic product selections, displays, customer service and community engagement.

We recently sat down with Cliff to learn more about the journey he and Linda have taken as small business owners in Seward. 

Co-owners, Cliff and Linda celebrate all that Alaska has to offer with their store, Brown and Hawkins Mercantile. Photo Courtesy of Cliff Krug.

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

We try to offer a wide range of interesting things for the entire family that aren’t easily found but are still reasonably priced.  Our goal is to cover a wide range of categories so that guests can enjoy a one-stop shopping experience. We are flexible with our buying so that we can bring in what is needed when it is needed. Our commitment to celebrating artisans extends, not just to Alaska beyond as well. There are so many talented people to discover and share together; they can enrich our lives. Finally, we are always looking for deals to pass on to our customers. We will always maintain an off-price section of things, in limited quantities that are really, really, really, good deals.

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

That is a tough one because there are so many things – in the end we never stop trying to find unique things that can create meaningful connections, no matter how small, between a vendor or artist and our customers. We are proud of the range of products that we carry and this range is ultimately a reflection of Brown & Hawkins’ history. It’s not just a nice place to shop, it can be an inspiring place to just visit.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

All the local support. So many people come into our store saying that they came because someone had told them they had to check it out.

Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.

We opened in the off-season, but a lot of concerned people suggest to us strongly that we should wait until spring. However, we felt that it was the best time to get comfortable in the space, interact with our shoppers and nurture the store. Not only was it the right choice but it really allowed us to bond with the Seward community on a whole different level and identify unique opportunities like Seward Second Saturdays. This wouldn’t have been possible if we had opened in the spring instead.

Flexibility in buying makes Brown and Hawkins a one-stop shop for Seward locals and visitors alike. Photo Courtesy of Cliff Krug.

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

In today’s market, in order to maintain sustainable growth, we recommend trying to create meaningful connections with your customers. Get to know your customer and find out what they really want. Be flexible and willing to adapt to their needs and evolving lifestyles. There are so many ways, big and small, to do this day in and day out.  And it is through doing these things and finding new ways to do these things that you will keep yourself and your business fresh, relevant and vital.

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

Linda crewed Hot Air Balloons for 15 years in USA & Europe. I taught Theater Lighting in Europe for 7 years. Linda & I first met when Linda hired me to work with her at the Mt. Roberts Tram in Juneau before we moved to Girdwood.

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

First, the amazing world that surrounds us everyday. It can take your breath away in a moment. Second, the people and the community that they have built. Third, the history is all around you and even if you dig just a little you can appreciate how vital Seward has been to Alaska over time.

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

I got a job managing the retail shops at Pursuit/Kenai Fjords Tours three years ago while Linda worked as Director of Retail for Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. She transitioned into managing the Once in a Blue Moose stores here in Seward seasonally over the following year.

Cliff and Linda work hard to showcase local Seward and Alaskan artists that are both well-known and up-and-coming. Photo Courtesy of Cliff Krug.

Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.

Wow, that is a tough one too. There are so many amazing people here in Seward. Tom & Kathy Gillespie, Hugh & Iris Darling, Jennifer Headtke, Judy Odhner, Ron Wille and Nicole Lawrence just to name a few. They have all helped, encouraged and guided us in so many ways, big and small, from the beginning. These are all people that welcomed us to Seward and in one way or another showed us their way. And they have even provided a timely reality check or two when needed! We are grateful to know them all.

How do you spend your free time?

We love what we do so we are always looking for new products, assessing numbers and strategizing. But a good walk, a good meal and a nap are always welcome in between!

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

Right now, we love eating something scrumptious at Zudy’s on the deck, in the sun, as the whales are bubble net feeding. In the fall, we enjoy our decks in the morning or evening. There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee in the morning or a chilled glass of riesling in the evening looking out onto the bay. It does the soul good.

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

Fox Island is a special place for us. Cathy Martell has really created a magical place out there to stay. We are dying to get out to Orca Island Cabins too. We also want to get out kayaking more.

Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?

We will be adding outdoor gear and some more specific things that locals have been asking us to carry this fall. We are continually looking for great bargains so watch our Facebook page for arrival announcements. An eCommerce site is on the horizon for end of 2018 too with the help of our friends at Able Millane Web Services!

Feature Image: Shopping in the historic Brown and Hawkins Mercantile is like stepping into the past. The city of Seward is lucky to have a store that has endured more than 100 years in the historic downtown district. Photo Courtesy of Cliff Krug.

***

For more information about Brown and Hawkins, click here or call 907.831.1995.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051.

 

Member Spotlight: RAWsome Photography

Q&A With Oksana Skolnaja of RAWsome Photography

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

Oksana Skolnaja was born in Lithuana with a camera in her hand. As a long-time resident of Seward, she has made a name for herself fileting halibut quickly and perfectly while deckhanding with Crackerjack Fishing Charters and has recently turned her attention back to her photo art with her business RAWsome Photography. Whether she is capturing lifestyle, family events, wildlife, travel and glamorous portraiture, her lively and fun style shines through each photo. She strives to capture beauty and special moments and create memories with clients who favor a less traditional approach.

We recently sat down with Oksana Skolnaja to learn more about the journey she has taken as a small business owner in Seward. 

Photographer Oksana Skolnaja balances being a full-time mom with her new business. Photo Courtesy of RAWsome Photography

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

My photography is unique in my own expression, the way I see things through the lens. I’ve been told I make people look happy and beautiful and I am good at creating memories.

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

I just recently finished photo visuals for The Retreat Salon and Day Spa’s new website. It’s going to be great! I am grateful and happy I was able to collaborate with Crista and her amazing team. Stay tuned for the updated website! My marine wildlife and bird canvas prints will also be available for sale at the salon through the month of June.

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

I’ve been taking photographs ever since I can remember. This year I decided to become a business owner and continue capturing people in their essence.

Shots like this one capture Oksana’s fun and energetic perspective behind the lens. Photo Courtesy of RAWsome Photography

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

There have been a few, but one of my favorites was being told that I captured some precious moments that would last a lifetime.

Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.

I’ve recently made business decisions that paid off financially and more importantly created new partnerships that are growing my business. Networking is a must if you’re a business owner!

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

I would recommend a good client management system to keep track of contracts, emails, proposals, and invoices among other things. As a busy mom, I am definitely trying to work more efficiently!

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

The first time I came to Seward was during my college years back in 2005; I worked at the Breeze Inn as a waitress for the summer. This lively and beautiful town fascinated me, so I had to come back! I moved to Seward in 2009 and began spending summers in Seward and winters in Girdwood. Four years ago, I moved full-time to Seward.

Focusing on the smaller wildlife in Resurrection Bay, Oksana finds the beauty in things that others often miss. Photo Courtesy of RAWsome Photography

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

I love the arts and Resurrection Bay. Summer brings so much life and interesting people. During the winter, I love hiking and skiing, doing yoga and relaxing.

Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.

I admire quite a few small business owners who took a leap of faith and grew their business in this community; there are too many to name.

How do you spend your free time?

I’m a full-time mom, which takes a lot of time, but I also manage to get in a lot of hiking, running, biking, fishing and relaxing with my family.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

I love hiking Lost Lake Trail! And now that Yoga Space has opened I will be attending more yoga classes!

Oksana captures Alaska’s iconic bald eagle fishing the waters near Seward. Photo: RAWsome Photography

If your life was a book, what would the title be?

The Rawsome Adventures of Oksana Skolnaja

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

I would go on an overnight camping trip to Caine’s Head or out to Orca Island for a more private getaway. I would also go to Harding Ice Field, which is one of my favorite spots to go on long hikes along with Lost Lake.

Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?

I would like to focus more on capturing families and couples who are visiting Seward who would like me to photograph their adventures and special trip of a lifetime moments. Then they wouldn’t have to worry about taking quality photographs of their trip; they could just focus on enjoying their time in this amazing place!

***

Feature Image: Oksana’s keen eye captures seals hauled out on a waterfall. Photo: RAWsome Photography.

***

For more information about RAWsome Photography click here or call 907.903.7793. 

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

Member Spotlight: Bardy’s Trail Rides

Q&A With Breanna Dodson of Bardy’s Trail Rides

It’s often said that people make the place and we couldn’t agree more. Our spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

Bardy’s Trail Rides offers diverse 2-hour horseback rides twice a day from May through September to locals and visitors alike. Seward local, Breanna Dodson, takes riders through the rain forest of Seward where moose and bear roam and shows guests part of old town Seward that was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1964. Then the horses carry guests out to the grasslands at the beach of Resurrection Bay where the wild flowers meet the ocean. Often riders will find themselves trotting beneath massive bald eagles and encounter diverse birding opportunities. The horses meander through moss-laden forests and take riders across rivers where salmon swim between the horse’s legs on their way to spawning grounds. Breanna has spent the last eight years developing this unique tour to show visitors a different side of Seward.

We recently sat down with Breanna to learn more about the journey she has taken as a small business owner in Seward. 

Seward local, Breanna Dodson, takes locals on a ride of a lifetime through temperate rainforests, beaches and rivers. Photo by Ron Niebrugge.

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

We pride ourselves on excellent customer service. We keep out tours at 7 people or less so everyone is getting the attention or service needed.

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

I was born and raised in Seward and started this business with my dad when I was 14 years old. It was intended to use it to pay my way through college, which I did. I always thought I would sell it when I graduated, but I enjoy the business and meeting new people. Every year I keep saying “Oh, just one more year.” I think I have been saying that for 8 years now!

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

We were ranked top 10 trail ride by USAToday and we were on a TV series called Equatrekking which aired on PBS.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

I hear quite often that our ride was the best trail they have ever done from guests who ride on every vacation. We also hear how well-maintained and cared-for our horses are. That means a lot to me because our horses are part of the family.

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

Every customer is important. Treat them like a person; without them you have no business.

If your life was a book, what would the title be?

Off the Beaten Path

Bardy’s Trail Rides gives visitors a glimpse into the history of Seward. Photo by Ron Niebrugge.

How do you spend your free time?

There is no free time when you own horses.

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

I love the small town atmosphere and how most in the tourism industry work together to make Seward a fun-filled stop for our guests.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

On my horse’s back, riding through the woods.

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

My favorite place to explore and experience is camping on Porcupine Island on Kenai Lake.

Feature Image: Bardy’s Trail Rides gives visitors and locals a unique perspective on the epic views of Resurrection Bay. Photo by Ron Niebrugge.

***

For more information about Bardy’s Trail Rides or to book a tour, click here or call 907.362-7863.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051.