New website made by local YouTubers is bringing worldwide customers to Alaska stores

Published: Feb. 20, 2021 at 8:28 PM AKST
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For the small businesses in cruise towns across large parts of Alaska that cater to tourists, one season torn apart by COVID-19 was bad enough. The Cruise Lines International Association said efforts are being made to try and have a partial season with small cruise ships not covered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Canadian orders. However, now that they have to endure another season with those few ships — if any, many don’t know how they’re going to make it through this summer.

It may not save everybody, but a new website called Shop 49th aims to help as much as they can through the power of community, said Adam Legg, who created the site with his wife, Sherri.

Legg said they asked their following to shop at five Alaska businesses highlighted on the page — that’s it. He was hoping that they’d respond; based on the way some of the businesses reacted once they found out how and why they were getting orders from all over the world, it was working.

“My wife and I said, ‘We have to do something. We have to figure out some way to help,’” Legg said, “We’re just two people with one YouTube channel, so we didn’t know what that looked like. We knew that one of the resources that we had was this platform.”

Their channel is called LeggLife, and the content reflects that. Legg said they started it about five years ago as a place to post videos of his and his wife’s life in Alaska to show to their friends. It’s not all fun stuff, and he said they’ve posted a lot of videos about the challenges they’ve gone through themselves in a sincere way. They’re now up to about 15,500 subscribers.

Every single one of them is more loyal than the average YouTube watcher, according to Legg. He admitted that they don’t have a giant following, but the one they do have watch about a million minutes of Legg’s content every month.

“It’s ridiculous for a channel our size,” Legg said.

Cruises also hold a special place in the Leggs heart — specifically Disney Cruises. Legg said about 160 people are already signed up and paid for to go on a LeggLife Disney Cruise later this year.

On the receiving end of this wave of internet support are business owners like Spring Barry at Woodlands Apparel and Goods in Ketchikan.

Barry said this pandemic has been rough for her. She’s a little bit different than the established businesses catering to cruise tourists because she doesn’t have a full season under her belt. Barry said Woodlands started out as a booth that everyone in town said should set up a real store.

She did. She launched the winter before the pandemic started.

“How did I go from like a pop-up booth to like 2,000 pieces of apparel, and renovating a commercial storefront, and everything within like four months?” Barry said. “I don’t know how but I did it. And I was like, ‘we’re going to do it, it’s going happen quick, we’re going to see our return,’ and then the rug got pulled out from under us.”

Barry said the locals in the town she was born and raised in have helped keep her open, but there are only so many people in Ketchikan. She said there’s no season during the winter and she was barely selling anything. The day the site launched, Feb. 8, that changed.

“The orders just popped up. And I’m like — oh my gosh. What is happening? I need to find out what is going on!” she said.

It was the LeggLife following. All of a sudden, Barry was filling orders to go to places like New York, Arizona, Canada and even got a few emails from the U.K. asking if they’d ship to them.

The Leggs didn’t tell a single store that they were highlighted. Legg said he just thought of the places hit hard by the pandemic, checked to see if a store had a website and let the community do the rest.

“It was literally me and a Google search engine,” Legg said.

Legg said they don’t have anything to do with the businesses either. They aren’t even using a discount code because they want the community to spend as much money as possible. Legg said the fact of knowing that they did what they could is good enough for him.

“It’s going to give us hope for a little bit,” Barry said.

The five highlighted businesses will change every month. Legg said they are now taking nominations. He said he wants to continue doing a targeted approach to make the impact greater in the places it reaches. Starting in March, he said they’re going to add nonprofits to the list.

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