The best gift shops are those that have stood the test of time, offering gifts and trinkets to travelers and visitors decade after decade. If you’re looking for souvenirs in Fairbanks, AK, make sure you’re coming to the oldest, best, most trusted destination for specialized keepsakes and unique gifts: Arctic Travelers Gift Shop!
We’re more than just another storefront offering great gifts: we’re the premier destination for handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items that are beautifully created by native Alaskans! Our store is full of breathtaking keepsakes in Fairbanks, AK, each with its own purpose, meaning and story behind it.
At Arctic Travelers Gift Shop, we don’t sell run-of-the-mill collectables that you can find just anywhere: we sell works of art that you’ll only find in our storefront! And, because we’ve spent years and years cultivating knowledge and experience in working with local artisans and their creations, we can share the stories behind the items that catch your eye.
Keep reading below to learn a little bit more about our history and how we became the go-to destination for amazing souvenirs in Fairbanks, AK!
Arctic Travelers Gift and Floral Shop opened at the (then) new Travelers Inn Hotel, about six blocks from downtown Fairbanks, AK 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, the store held a “going out of business” sale. Some Seattle suppliers came north to help out with the closeout and claim what they could of balances owed them. Frances Groff, a friend of Kay’s, came in to help with the 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 from the closeout 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 passed away 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 year of the Great Flood. The building was condemned and the women moved the business farther down Second Avenue. Seven years later pipeline construction followed 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!