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Story Last modified at 12:27 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One stop shopping
Small store is full of good deals

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:News

From left, Mary Linda Pryor, Patricia Railing and Roberta Kolb volunteer their time in the small store inside the Chugiak Senior Citizens Center. Along with fellow volunteers Lola Norris and Cheri Clark, the women keep the store up and running and full of new items.
STAR PHOTOS by MATT TUNSETH
photo:News

Kolb helps a customer pick out some jewelry. Volunteers say that the store is a much-needed place to find anything from fancy crystal to toilet paper and tooth paste.
STAR PHOTOS by MATT TUNSETH

Having a corner store down the street from your house is nice convenience, but it's not like having one right inside your home.

As long as the current Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center has been open, a small store tucked inside the building has provided residents and visitors alike with all the comforts of home. And then some.

"We sell toiletries, sundries, gifts, we've got it all," said Roberta Kolb, one of five women who volunteer to work at the store, which is open between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. "You name it, we've got it."

The other members of the all-volunteer staff include Patricia Railing, Mary Linda Pryor, Lola Norris and Cheri Clark. The women take turns operating the store, and they're also responsible for locating the eclectic mix of items found on its shelves. When not behind the counter, they hit garage sales, discount stores and clearance racks in search of cheap items that can be re-sold at the store, according to senior center executive director Linda Hendrickson.

"They pick things up when they are really inexpensive," Hendrickson said.

Kolb said prices stay low in the store because it's run on a not-for-profit basis.

"The money all goes back into the center and to keep the store stocked," she said.

And there are some serious bargains to be had. Greeting cards, for example – which usually go for three bucks or more at the supermarket – sell for 50 cents.

"We do very well with our cards," said volunteer Patricia Railing.

The volunteers said they're also particularly proud of their selection of crystal figurines, along with a variety of other gift items that changes on a near-daily basis. Because the inventory is always changing, Kolb said many patrons make stopping by the store a daily habit.

"Let me tell you, they scan the windows for new things, and they're at the door when it's time to open," she said. "It's a popular place."

Railing said the store – which carries basic everyday items along with fancy gifts – is helpful to have for residents with limited mobility.

"Some of our seniors don't drive or have a way to get to the store," Railing said.

It's not just residents of the facility who use the store. The women said that they get a lot of outside traffic during special events, such as the center's Spring Carnival and the Fourth of July.

Hendrickson said the store has been operating inside the center since the current building was built in the mid-70s. Before that, residents and visitors used "The Garret," a small area where residents could stock up on small items.

"It's pretty much been here the whole time the center's been here," she said.

Hendrickson said that in addition to providing residents with a convenient place to get needed items, the store is also a great place for people looking for a last-minute anniversary or birthday surprise.

"The thing the residents use it for a lot, and the staff too, is if they need a gift for somebody, it's a perfect place for that," she said.

Roberta Kolb also said that the store's staff will locate hard-to-find items on request.

"We can't think of everything, but if there's something they need we'll get it in here for them," she said.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 29, 2011.