Bailey's Furniture in Soldotna is one of many businesses trying to tempt people with permanent fund sales.
Photo by Matt Tunseth
It's not quite Christmas, but it is time to spend some money on the Kenai Peninsula.
With $845.76 Alaska Permanent Fund dividend checks distributed last week to qualified Alaskans who receive theirs by direct deposit, some Kenai Peninsula retailers are keeping their fingers crossed hoping those checks will boost their business.
With more Alaskans about to receive their check by mail, it's only the beginning.
Wilderness Way owner Walter Ward is hoping for the best with an Alaska-style sale. The Soldotna outdoor gear shop is trying to coax customers by saying if people spend the entire amount of their check, they will get $1,000 worth of merchandise. Dividend or no dividend, any customer can get the deal, he said.
"Dividends are an incredibly important boost to all small businesses," Ward said. "It always worries me when you hear politicians talking about spending (the dividend) for something else."
Typically, business slows down after moose hunting season ends in September, he said. Every year he usually expects a boost in business when the checks are issued to carry business through to the holiday season, he said.
Three Bears in Kenai is feeling the rush, too.
People usually buy "something that they normally couldn't buy," said Alex Apostolos, nighttime supervisor for Three Bears. "Like a steak, candy (or) ice cream. All of a sudden they feel rich. They want to buy stuff."
Frontier Home Furnishings in Soldotna is not sure what to expect this year. Owner Heather Williams said it is her second permanent fund season since opening the store and did not notice a huge spike in business last year. Nonetheless, she will be open Saturday and is hoping for a flood of customers who have been waiting for a day off to do some shopping.
As for her check: "Mine's in and out," she said, adding it goes to pay bills.
Merchandise is not the only thing people spend money on when they get their dividend check.
Dottie Fischer, owner of Alaska's Best Travel in Kenai, said a lot of people like to use their money on a vacation.
Cruises are the hot-ticket item this year, she said.
"You're going to be sitting on the ship, you're going to look out and it's going to be so pretty out there," she said as she imagined being on a cruise.
This year, cruises around the Hawaiian Islands are the number one place people want to go with their dividend checks, she said. Second is cruises around Mexico and third are ones that depart from Galveston, Texas.
"They like the all-inclusive aspect of it," she said.
This is a shift from past years when customers were more likely to take land-based vacations, she said.
For a Kenai bank, things have been a little quieter around permanent fund season in recent years.
In the past, there were a lot more people coming to First National Bank Alaska to cash their checks, said Jason Carroll, Kenai branch manager. With the birth of online banking, most people handle the banking over the Internet or by telephone, he said.
"We don't get the rush we used to," Carroll said. "It's almost a non-event."
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