Public Market

By Peter Metcalfe  |  This year marks the 30th Alaska-Juneau Public Market, a Christmas retail event held at Centennial Hall every Thanksgiving weekend since 1983. Each year, 175 or more vendors from all over Alaska and the Pacific Northwest participate in the Public Market, and each year roughly 20 percent of the vendors present for the first time. A rough calculation indicates we have hosted nearly 1,000 individual vendors over the last thirty years.

With every Public Market it seems a theme or fad develops; sometimes it’s hand soaps made with local ingredients such as glacial flour and wild herbs. Another year it might be scented candles, carved woodwork, or wildberry jams and syrups.

The theme of the 2012 Public Market is “kitchen collectables,” one-of-a-kind items that would be useful in equipping or decorating kitchens.

Jim and Darcy Michener of Sitka return for the second year in a row to present “Alaska Pure Sea Salt” distilled from the waters of Southeast Alaska, a product ideal for soups and baked dishes. They offer three variations on their brand of flake sea salt including blueberry, alder smoke, and original.

The Barker family of Palmer will make their first appearance this year to present the products they make at their Earth Works Farm, which includes a hearty Alaskan breakfast: muesli cereal made from a combination of rolled oats, barley flakes, and dried fruits. The Barker’s primary products are moisturizing creams derived from the honey and beeswax they collect from their own hives.

Another first timer, Juneau’s Denise Elston of Alaska Gourmet Oils, will present her locally produced infused cooking oils at the Public Market Annex (the JACC). In the same row of booths, Bonnie Herbold, also of Juneau, will, for the second year in a row, offer her unique brand of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, products that proved highly popular in 2011. These products are not just delicious cooking aids, but lovely to look at — fine additions to the kitchen table.

Renee and Brian Pierce, also from Sitka, offer a line of wildberry and kelp products harvested from Southeast Alaska’s rainforest and the waters of Sitka Sound. The Pierces have participated in the Public Market since 1999.

Eagle River Knife Co., owned by the Bodley family of Eagle River, will return for their eleventh appearance in 13 years to sell their unique brand of chef-caliber knives, as well as ulus and fillet knives. No serious cook should go without a 7” Santoku Knife or 10” Chef’s Knife — sturdy, well balanced, and made, like all their products, from the highest quality proprietary steel.

Veteran Public Market vendors Ed Norton of Haines and Dean Snook of Huston (Alaska), and newcomer Mark Walker of Juneau, will present their beautifully crafted and useful hand-made wood products ranging from art-quality serving trays to beautiful hand-turned kitchen bowls (some sized to fit the traditional Alaskan knife, the ulu). In the Annex, Al Tingley of Juneau will host the Thunder Mountain High School wood working class and their line of kitchen-friendly products.

Look for the glass fusion tableware of Robyn Marriott, a veteran vendor who returned to the Public Market last year after a four-year sojourn in the Lower 48. Other glass fusion products will include platters, plates, and wall hangings by first timers Linda Chase of Skagway and Tomilyn Clark of Anchorage whose unique designs in glass would brighten any kitchen.

Potters include Joyce Pane, Jeremy Kane, and Dave Riccio of Juneau, Patrick and Debbie Laws of Ketchikan, and Betty Bell of Milton, Washington.

For the rustic kitchen, consider the chainsaw art of Thorne Bay’s Guy Lane, formerly of Kenai. A review the Alaska Bear Factory product line reveals art-quality work including small planters, wall hangings, and decorative figures appropriate for kitchen counters, cabinets, and shelves.

And finally, to add the holiday spirit to your home, look for ornaments offered by Carol Marchant of Eagle River, Sandy Wade of Ketchikan, Cindy Wortman-Zeil of Craig, and life-long Juneau residents Liv and Kristan Cadigan. Also available for sale will be ornaments and wreathes offered by Pat Yearty on behalf of Juneau’s Cancer Connection.

Photos and story by Peter Metcalfe who, with his wife Sandy, produces the annual Alaska-Juneau Public Market. He can be reached by email at, also see www.juneaupublicmarket .com