The parking lot was packed with cars outside of the new Three Bears Alaska store in Ketchikan on Wednesday. People stood shoulder-to-shoulder in line, waiting for the doors to open to Three Bears’s newest location at the Saxman Seaport. It’s not every day Ketchikan gets a new grocery store — especially not one that draws murmured comparisons to Costco.
But before heading inside, there was a welcoming ceremony.
Cape Fox Dancers performed traditional dances, welcoming customers and thanking the store staff.
Dancer and member of the Cape Fox Corporation’s board of directors Kenneth White unveiled a carving that he made for the store. It’s a formline design of three bears.
Billy Joe Thomas, Saxman’s vice mayor, also gave remarks on behalf of Saxman’s mayor, Frank Seludo.
“This is going to be so big for the future growth of our small community,” he said. “This is just the beginning. Thank you Three Bears. Thank you Cape Fox Corporation.”
Richard Shields, from the Cape Fox Corporation Board of Directors, also welcomed everyone.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Three Bears. Gunalcheesh, in our language, is ‘thank you,’” he said.
Then, the store’s owner, David Weisz, flanked by staff, took out a huge pair of ceremonial scissors and cut the ribbon to the store.
Inside, high ceilings, heavy industrial shelves, and rows and rows of inventory stretch out ahead of the crowd. People wandered the wide aisles, eating corn dogs and navigating their shopping carts through the throng.
David Guzman was doing a little price-comparison shopping.
“It looks pretty well organized right now and kind of has a Costco feel to it,” Guzman said. “So I’m just basically, just, price comparison right now is what I’m doing and so far the prices look really good.”
Seain Kearney, a fisherman, said he’s happy with the store’s selection.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for Ketchikan,save a lot of money,” Kearney said. “And I really thank Saxman for bringing (it) here.”
The store has an attached ACE Hardware. For shopper Hank Kreth it brings back memories of another south-end store — Tatsuda’s IGA, a Stedman Street staple until a landslide destroyed the store in 2020.
“It needed something down here, just to make the travel a lot less for people who live here,” he said.
Kreth had only been in the store a few minutes. He said he had more browsing to do before he could comment on what’s offered.
“I haven’t even scratched the surface,” he said.
With the doors officially open, Three Bears is the only grocery store south of Ketchikan city limits.
The store is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. The ACE Hardware is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at KRBD.org/donate.