May - September 2007,
April - September 2008 &
Corrington's Alaskan Ivory
The 6 W's
Corrington Enterprises. Interesting Corrington history: Dennis Corrington was a boarding school principle in Alaska in the 60's. During the summer months, he would travel to visit his student's families in the remote villages of Alaska. The villagers would ask him to bring them hard-to-get items such as car batteries and such, and when Dennis would arrive with these items, the villagers would pay him in trade. Seeing an opportunity in Skagway, Dennis opened a trading post there in the early 70's.
Dennis and Nancy Corrington own several properties in Skagway, Alaska, which they rent out or operate as retail stores. Skagway is a tourist town that focuses on cruise ship visitors.
Skagway, Alaska, is located in southeast Alaska and is part of the Inside Passage. All Corrington stores are located in Skagway.
If you are asked to help get the stores ready for opening, you will be expected to arrive in late March. Most folks come in middle or late April for the start of the season in early May. The end of the season is late September. Weather in the summer is 60s, 70's and 80s for highs and 40s and 50s for lows. It usually rains a bit, but it never lasts for long. And remember, Alaska in the high summertime means daylight for almost 24 hours of the day, which takes a bit of getting used to.
If you work for the Corrington's, you can expect to be employed as a sales clerk in one of their retail shops, as a warehouse employee, or as a maintenance worker. Phil and I worked as sales clerks in their original store, Corrington's Alaskan Ivory, which featured Alaskan-made artwork handcrafted by native Alaskans. There is also the Skagway Outlet Store, which offers lower-priced tourist items. Other stores vary from year to year due to rental demand.
Would we do again:
What we liked
- the Corrington's are cool people who treat their employees well
- super cheap rent for RV spot in quiet, privately owned Corrington RV park
- being right on the ocean
- awesome hiking
- interesting history
- abundant wildlife
- low pressure sales environment in the stores
- cheap post office box
- everything's within walking distance so you don't have to drive if you don't want to
- local's discounts on tours and other cool things to do
- unbeatable scenery
- laid-backedness of Skagway
- Skagway fish company
- $6.00 crabs right off the docks
- fun and interesting coworkers
- it costs a lot to get to Alaska, but once you're in Skagway, you don't have to fill up your tank all summer
What we didn't like
- high prices on groceries and fuel (there's no competition on either..one market, one gas station)
- retail can erode the soul if you let it
- the drive through Canada in late March can be harrowing at times
- it costs a lot of money just to get there
Alaska will hook you, so beware. There's something special about Skagway. Phil and I, when we started this life, said we weren't going to repeat anyplace until we've done it all. We'll, we got to Skagway and that changed. Enough so that we worked there three summers already and would love to go back for more.
Our first year, we didn't go up until April. The drive through the northern US and Canada was very uneventful at that time of year. We had to deal with frost-heaves on the Alaskan Highway, but they were well-marked and not too big a deal. The second and third years we went early, in mid-March. That was a bit more difficult due to the heavy snow still in the northern US and Canada, but the good news was that the snow filled in the potholes on the Alaskan highway. Ha ha. In all seriousness, the drive in March set me on edge a couple of times, and we had to pull over early one night because of a snowstorm, but we were actually luckier than the folks who came later that year who dealt with worse weather, so you just never know. Just go slow and be smart.
The Corringtons put you up in style. They have a private RV park for their employees that's situated about two miles from town, so we usually walk or bike to work, except when we're really lazy or when it's raining hard and we don't feel like getting wet. (Which reminds me, that part of Alaska is rainforest-y, so expect rain. The good news is the rain never seems to last too long at one time.) At Mount Vernon (what the Corrington's call the RV park), there's a clubhouse with plenty of room for all sorts of activities, including Sunday night poker games, potlucks, exercising, reading and relaxing. There's also a pay washer and dryer in the clubhouse, a sink, big refrigerators and freezers for folks to put their bigger food items into, and a book and video exchange. There is also wifi and cable available from the Corringtons for additional small fees. Mount Vernon is very quiet and has a nice wooded area near part of the Skagway river. It's a nice place to live in a town where some folks live in tents and pay $400.00 a month.
On the work front, the Corrington's supply the work shirts and coats, so all you have to bring are black pants and shoes. The Corrington's own many properties in Skagway. They would rather make their money by renting their properties to other businesses, but if the spaces don't get rented out, they'll put one of their stores in the space. As an employee, you will be working in one of their retail stores. For the past couple years we've worked there, they've had Corrington's Alaskan Ivory, Skagway Outlet Store, The Skagway Bazaar and Skagway Old Town. The second year, they added Golden North Gifts and they threw in another scrap store when they lost a renter in the middle of the season. Each place has its own vibe, and the Corrington's, along with input from the employees, do a good job fitting the employee to the store with the right atmosphere. Skagway is a cruise ship tourist town, and on busy days, you can see upwards of 10,000 cruisers, so you're hopping on those days. You're ringing up sales on the registers, helping customers decide on purchases, restocking depleted wares (including masses of t-shirts) and being a Skagway ambassador (meaning you help folks find places to eat and go to the bathroom). It gets nuts sometimes, and you'll want to strangle some customers, but it's fun for the most part, and if you're having a bad day, step outside and check out those mountains and ocean and you'll be alright again.
If you're not working in a store, you could be working with the warehouse folks who deliver the goods from the warehouse at Mount Vernon to all the stores. There are also positions for handy-folks. Those folks are crucial in keeping things in working order in the stores and at the park.
On your days off, there's actually too many things to try to do. We've been there two summers, and there's still things we have to do. Because you're a "local," you can get very good deals on excursions, including the train trips, boat trips, helicopter rides, plane rides, kayaking, float trips, glacier trips, and it goes on an on. And you don't have to spend money to enjoy Skagway. All you have to do is walk to the docks and sit by the water. We've never been down there without having something looking back at us. Even humpies and orcas make it to Skagway, and if you're diligent, you can see them playing right from shore. In late summer, there's the salmon run and the bears that come out to take advantage of the good eats. For summertime entertainment, Townies go out to the flats to watch the bears fish.
There's just too many good things to write about here, so I'm going to end this before I sound like a travel guide for Skagway. But if you've been thinking of working in Alaska, working for the Corrington's in Skagway is a good way to go.