Economist sees small boom with new stores, restaurants

The new retail year in Alaska will be marked by the opening of several national retail stores as well as the addition of chain restaurants.

Retailers opening additional stores in the Anchorage market include Fred Meyer and Lowe’s, with Home Depot set to open in Fairbanks. New restaurants due to open are Applebee’s, Chili’s and IHOP, all in Anchorage.

Neal Fried, economist with the state Department of Labor, anticipates 2002 may prove to be a small retail boom.

"I’m expecting it to be, because of the new store openings, from an employment standpoint better than this year," he said.

Retail could be one of the bright spots in Alaska in 2002, said Jeff Pokorny, research director for Anchorage Economic Development Corp. He also noted Fred Meyer officials are pursuing plans to build a store in Eagle River, although construction may not begin until late next year or in 2003.

Officials for Portland, Ore.-based Fred Meyer have said they plan to open a ninth store in Alaska and fourth in Anchorage early in the year.

The $28.5 million store, near Abbott Road and Lake Otis Parkway, would total 170,000 square feet and feature a gas station.

Fred Meyer is owned by grocery giant Kroger.

This spring Home Depot expects to open it first Fairbanks store. The 130,500-square-foot building is being built off the Johansen Expressway and will employ 150 to 200 workers.

Another home improvement retailer is expanding operations in Alaska. Lowe’s, the Wilkesboro, N.C.-based chain, plans to open its second Anchorage store in spring or early summer, according to officials. The new Lowe’s store should total about 150,000 square feet, including 28,000 to 30,000 square feet for a lawn and garden center, and is under construction at the corner of Old Seward Highway and O’Malley Road. Stores of this size typically employ 175 to 200 people, Lowe’s officials said.

Other retailers could announce projects later in the year and begin construction shortly thereafter, Fried said.

Restaurants also will play a significant role in the retail sector for 2002. Consumers are spending a bigger part of their food dollar away from home, Fried said. Besides the new incoming national eateries, other independent restaurateurs also could begin operations next year, he said.

Work continues on a second Applebee’s restaurant on DeBarr Road in Anchorage. Local operators expect to open the restaurant Feb. 28.

A new-to-Alaska franchise, Chili’s Grill & Bar, should open by spring at 88th Avenue and Abbott Road in Anchorage. The restaurant will tally 5,500 square feet and seat 215 diners.

The franchise operator also aims to begin building a second Anchorage Chili’s in May at Tudor Road and C Street.

Another U.S. restaurant franchise premiers in Anchorage next year. Several Alaskans will operate an IHOP Restaurant in Midtown, set to open in early 2002. The 5,000-square-foot eatery, which will seat 176 diners, is being built at the corner of Tudor Road and Denali Street.

12/30/2001 - 8:00pm