Clothes and groceries service area
Fairbanks (population 32324) is the largest settlement in Interior Alaska. Fairbanks is the second largest and northern most city in Alaska1. Thus, its service area encompasses the Fairbanks metropolitan area (Fairbanks, College, North Pole, Fox, Goldstream, Ester), the Fairbanks North Star Borough (population 97581), and areas far north of the Yukon River and even in the Brooks Range.
Shopping rush hours
While people living in the Fairbanks metropolitan area shop every week for groceries in Fairbanks, those living far out in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and beyond only come for special occasions. In between, they either shop by mail order or have friends, who go to town, bring fresh groceries.
The Indian Olympics, Tanana Valley Fair, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are some of these special occasions. On the weekend of the Olympics or the Fair, all the shelves are empty at all grocery stores in town. The stores have difficulties keeping up restocking. The same is true on the weekend before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thus, I avoid doing my groceries at these times.
North of Fairbanks, the various settlements have less than 100 inhabitants. For instance, Coldfoot has 10, Wiseman 14, and Deadhorse 25-50 inhabitants. There are many settlements of this size north of Fairbanks. You can easily imagine that running a grocery or clothes store in such a small village would be a recipe for bankruptcy.
Since there are no stores, people depend on mass shopping while visiting friends and family in Fairbanks or when coming to Fairbanks for special occasions. In addition, they have mail order and pursue a subsidence lifestyle.
Shopping in Fairbanks
They do not shop for one package of corn flakes, but two months worth of corn flakes. They don’t stop at one 48 rolls package of toilet paper, one package of tooth paste or five bananas. They buy several gallons of milk, several cans of coffee, fresh tropical fruits, apples, fresh vegetables, canned beans, canned vegetables, flour, etc., but they don’t buy meat, fish, sausages or marmalade. You get the idea. If they don’t live in a dry village2, they also buy liquors, wine and beer in amounts you buy for a 30 people party.
Can you imagine to only shop once every two months or so? Would you miss going to the mall?
When you found this post interesting tweet your friends to read what it means to shop for Thanksgiving in Alaska
Focus Alaska is a weekly series about Alaska lifestyle and fashion every Monday. Other post in this series on life outside of Fairbanks address the dirt road to Prudhoe Bay, being paid for living in Alaska and an unwritten law of general support.
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1The Fairbanks city and Borough’s area extend 32.7 sq mi (84.6 km2) and 7444 sq mi (19280 km2). Thus, Fairbanks’ city area is a bit larger than the size of Nice (27.77 sq mi), but has way less population.
2Some village and towns in Alaska forbid to bring in alcohol. They are called dry villages.
Photos: G. Kramm
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