The Arctic Travelers Gift and Floral Shop opened at the (then) new Travelers
Inn Hotel about 6 blocks from downtown Fairbanks, Alaska in 1955. Economic
considerations shortly sparked owners, Kay and Ray Loesche, to move the
shop downtown. The sign still read "Travelers Gift and Floral"
at their new 532 Second Avenue location, across the alley from Coopers
Hardware and across the street from the Co-op and Avakoff Jewelers.
In December 1962, they held a "Going Out of Business" sale. Some
Seattle suppliers came north to help out with the close out and claim what
they could of balances owed them. Frances Groff, a friend of Kay's, came
in to help with the 50% off sale for the month of December. She asked her
sister-in-law, Ione Groff, to help. Ione was a register nurse by
profession and both women thought working at the gift shop would be a nice
change of pace.
Ione's husband, Stan Groff, sold life insurance. He watched the little retail
business with great interest and thought that owning a business would be both adventurous
and a way to work towards retirement. He saw that one of the small
offices in the back of the store could be used for his insurance business so
he made arrangements and bought the business.
The couple changed the name to Arctic Travelers Gift Shop so they could put off the
expense of a new sign for a few years. The merchandise left over form the
50% off sale was humble. One supplier, Walter Lowen from Indian Arts and
Crafts in Seattle, was the only one to give them credit that year.
Stan and Ione ran the shop six days a week together until Stan got sick the
summer of 1966 and died a month later. He was right about the Gift Shop
all along, however, it was a good idea.
Ione got help that same year, and it was a good thing too, because the very
next year was the Great Flood. The building was condemned and the women
moved the business farther down Second Avenue. The later
Pipeline construction followed seven years and made Fairbanks a
"boomtown" with the Gift Shop right in the middle of it.
Ione turned her business over to her daughter, Judy Robertson Divinyi, in 1975
at the age of 65. Five years later, the shop moved again as the corner
building at 201 Cushman became vacant. At first the Gift Shop shared the
building with Doug O'Neill, TRC Ivory, and H&R Block. Later they took
over these spaces and expanded the business.
There were later ups and downs, expansions and cutbacks, but the little souvenir
shop survived them all to become the best Gift Shop in Interior Alaska. In
2000, Judy sold the gift shop to Jim and Jinx Whitaker. Jinx's family had
business roots in the community much like Judy's family and contributed
their own touches to the shop.
Most recently though, in the summer of 2007 Jinx sold the shop to Angelika Krinner,
a German native who has spent the last 25 years living in Alaska.
Angelika, along with her amazing staff, are committed in keeping the
shop's great reputation thriving for years to come. If you're in the vicinity,please stop on by!