What could be better than buying in-style fashion that doesn't come from a nearby box store or an adult-friendly department store?
"You don't have to drive to Anchorage."
This is the draw Mike Forman was aiming for when he opened "Bruce's Street and Skate," a new skateboarder's apparel and equipment store in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.
"Ever since we've opened, that's been the biggest comment I've heard from parents and kids," Forman said about the aforementioned statement.
Store walls are lined with a cornucopia of colors, displaying wheelless skateboards, soft-soled "boarding" shoes, beanies, baseball caps, hooded sweatshirts and T-shirts. A combination of opportunity and desire cleared the way for Forman to open his clothing and skateboard retail store in early May in the place of the former Passions store, he said.
"Timing is pretty much everything," Forman said, saying he began planning the store last fall. "The skate park opened May 2."
Forman, who lives in Wasilla, owns stores in Wasilla and in the Dimond Center in Anchorage and has been traveling frequently between the Matanuska-Susitna area and the Kenai Peninsula in preparation for the new store's opening. He said he was presented with a need for a peninsula store by Soldotna residents visiting his Wasilla store.
"I had some kids come up to Wasilla for baseball who said they needed a store in Soldotna," he said. "You figure there's a need because Kmart closed and there's only Gottschalks and Fred Meyer. We're the largest on the peninsula for this industry."
Kalifornsky Beach resident Ryan Karella, 19, said he's been in the store several times since it opened, and his friend Levi Neal, 18, was excited to see the store.
"When did you guys get this store here?" Neal said Tuesday morning while excitedly ogling the Bruce's wares.
Karella said he appreciated the variety the store offered as compared to mainstream peninsula stores.
"It's better than a lot of other stores here because it's got character," Karella said. "When I go shopping for clothes, I generally spend about $500 at different stores. Now I can do that in Soldotna."
Forman said although his store cateres to teens and young adult extreme athletes, he didn't expect to infringe on the customers of Nine-O-Seven, the Soldotna snowboard store that opened last December.
"I don't get into snow," he said. "That's why I'm not competing with Nine-O-Seven."
The difference Forman said Bruce's has over mainstream retailers, both on and off the peninsula, is that he makes a sincere effort to appeal to his youthful customer base. Such strides include distributing repeat-customer cards that offer 10-percent discounts and sale e-mail notifications and recognizing youngsters as honest buyers rather than potential troublemakers.
"At a lot of stores, when they see kids come in, they start stereotyping them," he said. "But when little Bobby comes in and you treat him nice, he'll come back with his mother and spend lots of money."
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