Alaskans don’t spend PFD on the arts

Aisles are packed shoulder to shoulder with shoppers. Check-out lines are a nightmare. And parking lot traffic leaves many locals wishing they’d never left home.

No, this isn’t last minute holiday shopping. This is the scene at any Wal-Mart or Costco is Anchorage the week the first round of the Permanent Fund Dividend is distributed.

But purveyors of entertainment and the arts say they’re mostly bypassed by Alaska’s PFD cash flow.

Take a walk downtown for a cup of coffee at Side Street Espresso, or stop in for a beer and a show at Mad Myrna’s during October, and you’ll find the environment much less hectic. In fact, you’ll probably find it no different from any other month.

“We don’t typically see a spike in business or purchasing more than in any other time of year,” said Deborah Seaton, part owner of Side Street Espresso in downtown Anchorage.

The coffee shop doubles as an art gallery. Seaton said artists usually want wall space in the summer months due to the tourist season, but potential sales during the dividend payouts in October aren’t a priority.

“The PFD does help a little bit, but it’s going to be down this year,” Mad Myrna’s owner Jeff ‘Myrna’ Wood said.

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As for its impact on his business, Wood said, “I think it will be minimal.”

Other Anchorage hangouts and galleries have similar expectations about the PFDs potential effects on revenue.

“Our business isn’t really dependant on the PFD; it doesn’t really make much of a difference. It’s more the themes and the economy, and what’s going on around the state,” Club Millennium manager Robinson Garcia said.

But that doesn’t mean the club won’t try to nab some of the extra income that’s flying around in October. Garcia said Club Millennium is stacking their themed events for the month in hopes of drawing in more business.

Virtu Gallery owner Cari Zawodny said her gallery’s art sales fluctuate from year to year around PFD time, and that even though last year’s payout was larger, they saw no significant difference in sales.

It might not be enough to affect overall sales, but there are some individual buyers out there who are willing to commit their PFD bucks toward less pedestrian products than Costco or Wal-Mart wares.

“We’ve had sales in the past where we’ve had customers, the day they get their PFD, call up and say ‘Put a red dot on this painting I’ve been looking at for a year; I want to take it home,’” Zawodny said.

While the PFD is always a welcome source of money to Alaskans, it seems that locals aren’t concerned with using it to spend time in bars, clubs, or artsy hang outs.

Annie Ciszak, co-owner of Bella Boutique, a hand-made crafts and arts store, said, “I think people will use their PFD for big purchases like a couch, or something like that.”

She said that in the three years Bella Boutique has been in business there hasn’t been any discernable increase in sales around PFD payout, and she doesn’t expect it to effect business this year either.