With every new chain store that opens in Anchorage, the city looks a bit less individualistic and more like the rest of America. Franchise stores often crowd out locally owned and operated businesses. Finding a Alaska store that has managed to compete with franchise stores is a breath of fresh air and an affirmation that all is well in the world.
Metro Music and Book Store is a brilliant example of a local success story. Located on 530 E. Benson Blvd. in the Metro Mall, the store has roots set firmly in the history of Anchorage. Owner David Shimek said Metro has been Alaskan-run since its establishment.
“My parents set up shop in 1946 selling radios,” Shimek said. “That was the hot thing. Radios were hotter than a pistol.”
Shimek’s still sells radios as well as televisions and sound equipment. It is located next to Metro. Shimek splits his time between the stores.
Metro boasts a wide selection of books, music, DVDs and a new cafe. The music selection is thorough and offers both new and used CDs. Customers can preview any disc before deciding to buy it. Classic films on DVD are also available to rent.
Metro will place orders for CDs as well and, once ordered, the customer is under no pressure to buy it.
The store has a unique book-ordering policy. If a book is out of stock, Metro offers 20 percent off to customers who order it. They also give discounts for mass book orders.
“If there’s a school function and there’s a class that needs a certain book, we give 20 percent off,” employee Starlee Coulter said, a junior biology student.
Felix Café, Metro’s newest addition, opened in April and features Parisian-style crepes of both sweet and savory fare. The atmosphere is relaxed and hip. The space has a flexible floor plan with a small stage.
Sharon Snelling works as a barista in the cafe and sees a lot of foot traffic.
“We have hosted a variety of events, everything from baby showers to 100-seat concerts,” Snelling said.
The coffee is a Bolivian blend and is roasted on site. The walls display the work of local artists and Internet-ready computers are available at no charge.
Metro also carries sweet-smelling candles, yoga mats and ear candles.
Another perk for customers is the Metro Buck program. For every $10 spent, a customer will receive one Metro Buck. Metro Bucks are good toward any purchase in the cafe or bookstore, except admission to events in the cafe.
Metro is a distinctly Alaska store. They strive to stay a cut above the rest and accept suggestions from the public. Because the owner works on site, good ideas can be implemented quickly. Metro is definitely worth seeing for anyone curious or in need of a comfortable place to hit the books.