Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New store opens in tough commercial spot

Sandy Belk, owner of Chickadees
A choice spot on a busy streetcorner is a boost for any business, but for the past few years the commercial spot on the corner of Arctic Avenue and the Glenn Highway has been less a boon and more a burden.

It used to be Fisher’s Fuel’s Palmer gas station. Then Fred Meyer moved in across the street with its fuel rewards program and business suffered. The former gas station sat empty for a while, its paint slowly peeling away, until it became Husky Electric. But that business didn’t take root – the store was soon shuttered again.

Now it has new life as an antique/local goods/consignment shop called Chickadees. Run by Sandy Belk, who has lived in Palmer with her husband, Brad Ohs, for 11 years, the store is filled with home and garden accents. You can also get local eggs there and Belk said she would be selling fresh local tomatoes and cucumbers as soon as they’re available.

Some in the mental health community might recognize Ohs' name as the former administrator of North Star Behavioral Health's Lazy Mountain facility. He recently opened his own mental health practice, Mindful Exchange, just a few blocks away from Chickadees. Belk’s heart is in art and design. She said she’s been collecting antiques, architectural salvage items and vintage clothing for years.

“Everyone has always told me, ‘You need to have a shop,’” Belk said.

Recently, the timing was right and her dream of opening a shop became a reality. She opened the store last weekend.

Bold colors and intriguing finds make the store a fun stop.
The former gas station has been completely reinvented, with bright colors and inventive nooks and crannies. Inside you can find antiques - from intricately styled glass serving ware to a vintage tricycle and even a few unexpected finds like a decades-old book of Alaska songs. 

“These are things I have collected specifically for the shop,” she said. “I do consignments … I buy estates, I do shop Craigslist.”

And, she said, she has a network of friends who want to sell upscale home d├ęcor items that aren’t quite right for a garage sale and who don’t want to bother with Craigslist.

“It’s word-of-mouth, small-town Palmer,” she said.

So how do the eggs and veggies enter in? Belk said she has worked in animal husbandry for years, working for veterinarians, managing farms. She is working with a local woman who has 30 free-range hens in a big yard and who brings fresh eggs in daily. She has a line on a few different farmers who will sell tomatoes, cucumbers and other delicious local produce through the summer. Belk said to check for signs outside that will announce what’s fresh each day.

Belk initially hoped to have more ag-related offerings; she has two wagons full of plants right now, including some geraniums. But in her open, windswept lot, the plants are taking a beating. Unless the wind stops and the sun makes a pronounced appearance, Belk said she’ll hold off putting pretty baskets outside.

Why “Chickadees”? Belk said she’s a birder and loves the hardy little birds who stick around all winter long, bringing cheer to the long, lightless days with their hopeful song. She wants her store to be a fun, bright spot in keeping with its namesake’s character.

Chickadees is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 745-2200 for more information. 

-- Rindi White

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