Buying Local – Supporting Tok Business

Image by dawnzy58 via Flickr

I’m a firm believer in buying local and giving my hard-earned money to hard-working businesses and service providers in my own community. The fact that this is one of my “life philosophies” seems to have been missed by a recent comment on this blog where I was chastised by one of those “brave” anonymous blog trolls who love to criticize others without offering any valuable insights or information.

Did you know we have our VERY OWN rv Repair business here in tok (several to be exact) and one i know of gives a LOCAL DISCOUNT. He can repair just about anything on an RV, including the water systems, which happens to be his specialty. (Black grey and potable). Shamefull, really, to take your business somewhere other than local when the economy could so clearly use the boost. Still promoting Tok? Doesn’t sound like it.

It all started when I mentioned we were bringing our RV and bikes to Fairbanks to be repaired. After asking around and looking around the community for an RV repair shop that was open this early in the season and that repaired RV flooring, we were directed to Fairbanks and other towns even further away.

Luckily, another blog reader commented with some very helpful and enlightening information about RV repair shops in Tok stepped up and filled me in. Of course, we had already dropped off our RV at Arctic RV in Fairbanks when I saw the message with instructions how to get in touch with an RV repair guy in Tok.

Willards is open year round (he does some RV work) and if he didnt want to do it he would have gotten you in touch with our shop, J Squared Enterprises & Tok RV Center, and we would have loved to do it when we open this coming Friday. We have signs in the window with our phone numbers and would have loved to set something up with you to fix it. We have repaired many RV’s floors and understand the linoleum cracks and peels in the cold. We are full service on and off site and our family lives here year round.

Had you talked to Chevron also, they would have steered you to us. Yes, our building may not be open yet, but my husband it wonderful at being able to work offisite and could have offered you an estimate. Should you want to contact us about your RV, please, dont hesitate to call us . Our number is on the door to the big white building across from the old burnt texaco. If you dont want to call us and want to talk in person, we are opening at 8am on May 1st. I think the other commentator was just wondering why you would want to drive it all the way to fairbanks when there are more than a few quality repair places here in Tok.

Definitely something to know for next time.

I still haven’t found a bike repair person or bike supply place in Tok. I know that some very talented people provide services locally, however, finding them is a huge challenge, especially when you ask around and even the locals are going elsewhere for certain products and services. So whose fault is it when a business in a small community isn’t marketing to community residents in a variety of ways?

Or how about reaching out to new arrivals in town with promotional material. When we first moved here, a number of people stopped by from various churches with baskets of flowers and other lovely gifts. Perhaps business owners can pay a small fee (donation to these churches) to include their business cards or brochures in a package along with the flowers or cookies? I’d certainly welcome a stack of business cards to obtain products locally or use local services.

It isn’t really hard to imagine a smaller community like Tok lacking in a number of services. I was floored, however, when we first arrived to learn that there wasn’t even a bookstore in town – that the one that my husband had shopped at a year ago went out of business recently. I wonder: do these kinds of businesses in this area close up because of lack of customers or lack of business savvy or desire to sustain or all of the above?

How can we better support our local businesses when we don’t know they exist–or better yet, how can we help market these businesses so more people know they exist?

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  1. Allie

     /  April 28, 2009

    As far as I know, the bookstore went out of business because of high overhead and not enough patronage to sustain the costs. (They were also the bike people here in town.)

    Tok is not as small as one would like to think. With over 1100 people in our community, it is impossible to know everyone or everything that everyone does. We rely on others to refer us.

    As for advertising, our business does not lend itself well to the normal methods in a small town like Tok. Mechanics of all types are generally untrusted. We, as a business, rely on others to send people to us. As for the seasonal bit, we have relationships with other RV places around the state and in Canada that send us business. Advertising locally is challenging (to say the LEAST) when most don’t or won’t see it. Flyers and business cards can only get you so far. You have to be seen, and seeing as we have one of the biggest buildings in town, how can you NOT see us? As for relying on other RV owners in town to steer you to us, how many did to you talk to? Talk to any RV park owners? They know us well; we go to their sites all summer long to service their customers.

    As for helping people to know local businesses exist, I suggest people open their eyes when they drive down the highway. Looking for the familiar chain-type places wont get you far here. Stop in and talk to people before taking your business out of town. Ask around, and not just people you know. Ask other business owners in town about things you dont know or want to find. Small town Alaska is different than small-town-anywhere-else, we tend to rely on others a little bit more for information.

  2. intok

     /  April 29, 2009

    The Chamber of Commerce does have (or it did have) a package for new people which included the Chamber brochure, brochures for all the businesses who cared to put them in and lots of trinkets and other things from local businesses. Perhaps they aren’t doing it still, though I thought they were. It was Tok’s version of Newcomer’s Club.

    But it is generally fairly easy to find out who does what in Tok. I think Susan Carruthers who owned the bookstore/bike shop probably still has bike repair materials. It seems like you must be asking the wrong people.

  3. LOL. Yes, I could be asking the wrong people – but how does one know who the right people are or if the residents I’m asking are the wrong ones?

    When I called the Chamber a few months before moving to Tok and asked for a package of information as both a new resident and a business owner bringing my company to Tok, all I received was a single brochure. So maybe they stopped doing that package or maybe they don’t mail it out?

  4. intok

     /  April 29, 2009

    Winter the Chamber is basically closed, so that might be the reason. I’ll check and see if the Newcomers is still being done.

  5. intok

     /  April 30, 2009

    Sorry, I guess there had been a grant and it has expired. Maybe I’ll take it over.

  6. I thought of another thing we’re looking for – do they have blackout curtains for sale anywhere in Tok? If not, where’s the best place to get them?

  7. intok

     /  April 30, 2009

    I think for those you’ll have to either make them yourself or try Freddie’s when you are in town.

  8. Ah, Aliza, you failed mindreading, I see.

    I’m reminded of when I worked for large companies–you could have a cubicle amid a bunch of people and have no idea what they did for a living. Extensive attempts by the companies to keep everyone informed of what was going on were inevitably of limited value.

    So, if large companies that have dedicated resources to communication and “talent management” can’t get a grasp on who knows what, how could you be expected to?

    That being said, any idea when All Alaska Gifts will be open?


  9. anon

     /  May 2, 2009

    All Alaska is already open

  10. Now see, there’s the perfect example. The store may be open, but you’d never know it from their website.

    They may have something I’d like to buy–before I write them a long explanatory email, anyone know if they’re answering their email?


  11. Yes, All Alaska Gifts is open. We visited the other afternoon. Beautiful store. What do you need? I can walk your note over to them and see.

  12. (Email sent…thanks!)

  13. I’ve had similar experiences in Haines, way down at the other end of the state.

    Plumbers here are a rare and valuable breed…they don’t want to work in the winter, but might if it’s an emergency and in the summer they’re way too busy to help you out. I got lucky when one of them took pity on me last fall then was willing to come back this spring after I wasn’t one of the many begging him to thaw pipes this winter…so I guess there’s a sort of word of mouth about customers too.

    Word of mouth is the best way to find almost any of the services here since signs and websites are usually as out of date as the phone book.

    If you ever come to Haines and need automotive type repair I suggest Bushmaster’s they are fair, reasonably priced and really nice folks to boot!


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