Lucy's Cache at the airport was by far the best place in Bethel to buy authentic Native crafts and ethnic Russian items. She also has some wonderful things on display that are not for sale. BTW, I realized later that the kids in the third picture are from Brother's Pizza. They work hard bussing tables. I don't even know her name, but as a former player and coach I am predicting that the young lady will one day be an excellent basketball player. She has the work ethic, seems tall for her age, jumped up to touch the lintel of the door as she went through, and can probably almost palm a basketball right now.
What to buy: Don't miss a real Eskimo yo-yo made with seal and deer skin.
What to pay: Nothing is cheap in Bethel but especially not authentic Native crafts. For example, I paid $38 for the Eskimo yo-yo.
At one time the Moravian Book Store was supposed to have an amazing collection of books about western Alaska and a beautiful Alaska Native arts and crafts display, so I stopped there. It had a few things but mostly the shelves were empty. I am thinking they are not getting enough business. I also went back to try to find a copy of Bethel: The First 100 Years, 1885-1985, but it is out of print and they did not have it. The Artists' Guild Art Gallery is next door. It was not open either time I went to the book store.
The Alaska Commercial Company has an interesting history. AC Value Centers are now found all over Alaska. They have a large store in Bethel and it is Bethel's equivalent of Wal-Mart. It has almost the same choices but definitely not the same prices. Non-local products must be flown in or shipped by barge. This really makes things expensive, especially things like fresh produce. I did find one real bargin there though. It was muddy in Bethel and Bentley's Porter House asks you to take off your shoes while inside. I did not anticipate needing flipflops, so I checked at AC. The clothing department is upstairs in the back. I found a pair in the sale bin for $0.88! That is much cheaper than in Albuquerque and they even fit my big feet.
I could not resist taking this picture. It seemed unique that a party store and a gun shop would be in the same building with one entrance. Hey, maybe you would want to have a party while you were camping in the Alaskan bush country. Seriously, Anvil's does sell important things like sporting goods and rescue lasers, as well as providing outfitting services. Also, I am guessing that Lisa Anvil (there is a real connection) can help you throw a very unique party.
Bethel's Saturday market is in the Cultural Center and is open from 10 AM to 3 PM. Local people sell their handiwork and food. It was rainy the Saturday I was there, so there were not many vendors. There was a lady in the back selling agutak (Eskimo ice cream) and fry bread. It was not that long after breakfast, so I decided to wait to eat. My mistake. When I returned at lunch time, she was completely sold out.
What to buy: Local crafts, art and food
What to pay: Everything is expensive in Bethel. Even small dolls will cost $20-$30.
Bethel's Saturday market is in the Cultural Center from 10 AM to 3 PM. I went first thing in the morning. Someone was giving away an old chair. A young boy wanted to take it home with him and was sitting in it while waiting for his parents to pick him from the library (in the same building). He was holding the sign which said "Free to a Good Home. Take Me." I asked if I could take his picture. I'm not sure he realized the sign could have applied to him. When I went back in the afternoon, the chair and boy were gone. The popcorn guy said someone else got the chair. I guess his parents would not let him have it.