By Leigh Armstrong

High rent is pushing some businesses farther up Broadway Street or off the street entirely.  

Even though it’s prime real estate, the cost of having a business on Broadway is becoming prohibitive to small business owners, said Blaine Mero, Skagway Chamber of Commerce administrator.

There are up to five empty buildings on Broadway Street for the 2019 season, with more sitting vacant on numbered streets between Broadway and State Street. Vacant storefronts include the former location of Northern Lights Pizza, the former Skagway Jewelers in front of the Eagles Club, two spots in the Knorr building and the Old Dedman building that housed Heart of Broadway in 2018. 

“You can’t sell enough T-shirts to make rent if you’re on Broadway unfortunately,” Mero said. 

Part of the issue is that most of the leases are written for annual terms. If a business owner signs on to a $10,000-a-month lease, they’ll have to pay during the slow winter months, Mero said. Some of the smaller stores can’t afford to cover that cost when the tourist season is over.

Mero compared the costs of running business now to when he owned and operated Now and Then, a store specializing in new and vintage items, around 15 years ago.  

Kristine Harder, owner of Buckshot and Bobbypins, said she moved her business farther north on Broadway after the Skagway Brewing Co. moved away as her next door neighbor. She worried she would lose business from customers who shopped while waiting for a table at the Brewing Co. 

While Harder appreciates the bigger size of Buckshot and Bobbypins, she said the amount of people coming in hasn’t made up for dramatic increase in rent from last year. Harder declined to share what her rental costs were.

Some of the empty spaces are coming from shifting of stores. Skagway Scooters, which once occupied the old location of Northern Lights, moved farther up Broadway to Seventh Avenue. Skagway Jewelers moved over to the Kirmse building, which was vacant during the 2018 season.  

With Skagway Scooters, the move was a direct result of high rent. The scooter rental company moved north on Broadway and now shares a building with the Harley Davidson shop. Kowal was unable to share what the rental costs were.

“What our landlords were trying to charge us this season was significantly higher than it was last summer,” Chase Kowal, general manager of Skagway Scooters. 

The rent was high enough that Skagway Scooters’ parent company, Alaska Day Trips, is able to rent a second location right next to the new Buckshot and Bobbypins shop for less rent than what they were going to pay at the single location this summer, Kowal said.