In midtown Anchorage off Fireweed Lane stands Pack Rat Antiques, a two-story antique store owned by mother-daughter team JoAnn Brandlen and BreAnn Kim. 1938 editions of the Boston Cooking School sold for 15 cents each, floor length fur coats from the 80s, and a whole section dedicated to 50s-style kitchen appliances and decorum are only the beginning. Pack Rat functions as a co-op where Brandlen and Kim sell their antiques along with different vendors who have sections of the store to sell their merchandise. Pack Rat sells antiques ranging from the 1800s to the early 2000s, catering to the niches of all types of Alaskans.
“Collecting is kind of an addiction, and a lot of people have been doing it their whole lives since they were young children,” Kim said. “I’ve been collecting vintage clothing my whole life, during the grunge era, and that got me hooked into collecting. At one point I had a whole separate room full of vintage clothes, and I had huge piles of them.”
Walking around in Pack Rat feels like a different decade, featuring rooms stuffed full of crystal dishes, ceramic figurines, army hats and coats, typewriters, beaded lamps, dolls and vintage magazines.
“I think it’s cool because there’s a generational difference,” Kim said. “I’m a mother now and I have a child who’s going to be four years old and I’m at the age where you can really see the generational differences. It appeals to young people because they’re not used to all those old things, they didn’t grow up with these things some young children have never seen a rotary phone before.”
BreAnn Kim has worked for her mother JoAnn at the Pack Rat since Brandlen purchased the store in 2008. They relocated to their current location near West Anchorage High School a few years later for a better market.
“I helped her find this building because we’re both born and raised on this side of town and we love it,” Kim said. “We don’t sell necessity items, we are a luxury item type of store here, and we’re lucky to have die-hard customers.”
Pack Rat is well known for their vintage and costume jewelry, vinyl records and phonograms and vintage photos. In the front foyer hangs a $16,000 Armond Kirschbaum painting of Sleeping Lady, who was a professor and art teacher at UAA in the 1970s.
“It appeals to old people because it’s the past, it’s the way things were when they were more simple, and things were made better and things lasted longer and they were made in this country. The way things are made now, the new generation has no idea that people 100 years ago would play one record with one song on each side with a hand-cranked phonograph and that’s how you listened to music,” Kim said.
Holly Anderson and her husband Phil are traders at Pack Rat selling vintage jewelry, reels, lures and old toys as well as Alaskan-themed antiques. Anderson agreed that a large part of the reason why people are attracted to antiques is because of the quality of the merchandise.
“A lot of the old stuff, especially the furniture lasts a lot longer,” Anderson said. “Our granddaughter is seventeen and she really loves antiques. She redid her room and she refurnished it to the color she wanted. I think antiques are a fun way to decorate because you get different or unusual things, and it’s really fun to find stuff that maybe your grandparents had or things with history and a background.”
BreAnn Kim and JoAnn Brandlen aren’t the only ones in Anchorage benefiting from people’s love of antiques. On Dimond there’s another antique shop, Duane’s Antique Market owned by Duane Hill, who’s been collecting since the 70s and selling antiques in Alaska for over 40 years. Donna Haugan, an employee at Duane’s enjoys what Pack Rat is doing.
“Pack Rat is really fun and it’s a co-op, so it’s full of separate traders who have their own section of things they sell. It’s almost like a museum. We want them [customers] to know about the quality of antiques, instead of a new furniture store, which, yes, it’s new and shiny, but what’s the quality?” Haugan said. “Think of dresser that’s a hundred years old, and where it came from and who owned it, and why it’s still there; because it’s solid wood, its a piece of art. We get a lot of young people in here, ‘old souls’ I call them, and they love coming here.”
The owners at Pack Rat pride themselves on only accepting quality items and don’t take donations. Antiques at Pack Rat are priced at a reasonable market value to be accessible to a wide variety of shoppers. Visit Pack Rat Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. to find model 50s cars, 70s beer tap handles, Johnny Cash and Journey vinyl records, original glass coke bottles, 1920s flapper jewelry and much, much more.