ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two longtime Alaska Carhartt retailers won an award Tuesday for selling the most Carhartts per capita in the world.
''It's not brain surgery,'' said Mike Miller, co-owner of the Army Navy Store of Anchorage and Big Ray's of Fairbanks.
Miller and partners Mark Cruver and Monty Rostad carry a big inventory, offer custom designs and target Alaska's North Slope oil companies and contractors.
''It's like milk and eggs at the grocery store,'' Miller said.
Every year the Carhartt company gives eight retailers an award for excellence. The two Alaska stores moved nearly 50,000 Carhartt items last year. Given 2000 U.S. Census numbers, that works out to about 80 Carhartt items per 1,000 Alaskans.
''Not a day goes by we're not ordering more Carhartts,'' Miller said.
Alaska sales have always been good. But recently sales have accelerated, quadrupling in the 1990s, said Mark Valade, president of the privately held, Michigan-based company. Miller said that in the past decade his sales have increased fourfold as well.
In the past five years, the Alaska stores have profited from contracts with big North Slope oil producers and a specialized embroidery service with quick turnaround.
Carhartt has kicked in an expanded line in the last few years, too, Smith said, adding a stone-washed line in fashion colors. The company also supplemented its traditional work wear with flame-resistant clothing, a must in the North Slope oil fields.
Miller's father started the Anchorage Army Navy in 1947. Cruver's father and uncle were both partners in the business. The store is still at the same downtown location where it opened, but it's come a long way.
While Big Ray's specializes in Bush orders, Army Navy takes orders from around the world online, capitalizing on Carhartt's increasing cachet in Europe.
Brigitta Windisch-Cole, who lives in Anchorage, said she exports Carhartts to her nephews in Germany, and they're always welcome.
''They're creating a little fad over there,'' Windisch-Cole said.
What makes the brand so popular, said embroidery manager Smith, is that items last.
''A pair of Carhartts is like a Volkswagen. They last forever,'' Smith said.
''I've cut through the outer layer twice with my chain saw without denting the bottom layer,'' said Tom Kluberton of Talkeetna. Kluberton owns a dirt-moving business and works part-time as a computer consultant. ''And I have a toned-down pair I can wear to the office.''
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