Jung’s Trading Post Business Selling to Napakiak Corp.

by Charles Enoch on December 23, 2014

The front entry to Jung's Trading Post. Photo by Charles Enoch

The front entry to Jung’s Trading Post. Photo by Charles Enoch

Jung’s Trading Post, in the village of Napakiak has been in business for as long as most people in the region can remember. The family business has called a weathered red building along the Kuskokwim River home for 56 years. It’s known for its unique selection of local handmade crafts and other hard to find items. Earlier this month, owners announced they are going out of business.

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The shelves are half empty at Jung’s Trading post in Napakiak, about 10 miles downriver from Bethel. A few customers are combing through what’s left and taking advantage of a going out of business sale. Over the years, people from surrounding villages have stocked up here on groceries, camping supplies, kitchen tools, and local handiwork.

Richard Jung next to the larger than life Levi jeans on display at Jung's. Photo by Charles Enoch

Richard Jung next to the larger than life Levi jeans on display at Jung’s. Photo by Charles Enoch

Jung’s Trading Post Manager Richard Jung has been running the store, which he inherited from his parents, since the 70’s. He says he is selling it to the Napakiak village corporation because times are changing.

“It’s a much different climate now for a business in the Bush. Prices are so expensive that it’s very hard to make money now. It’s extremely hard, and there’s so much competition too with CODs coming in, and Wal-Marts, and Amazon Prime, and it’s just a very different climate now compared to, even 5 years ago,” said Jung.

The store was first established by his parents, Henry and Gladys Jung in 1958, just before Alaska became a state. That was when kayaks and dogsleds were common for transportation, and fur was still used as a method of trade.

Kids from Napakiak going candy shopping. PHoto by Charles Enoch

Kids from Napakiak candy shopping. Photo by Charles Enoch

“Long time ago, people’s boats were slower, dog teams were much slower so people used to stop here more.  And during the summertime we had a lot of fish camps here when I was young. There were people from the tundra, and downriver, and coast would come up here and have fish camps here around here. During the summer months we’d have a lot of people in this area and you don’t see that anymore,” said Jung.

Jung says his parents started out working for Bureau of Indian Affairs schools around the area until they ended up in Napakiak. Once there, they decided to begin their business. Since then, the store has served customers throughout the region. And for many, it provided a first job – stocking shelves or bagging groceries. Some stayed on.

James Nokowallera has been working at the store for almost as long as it's been open. Photo by Charles Enoch

James Nokowallera has been working at the store for almost as long as it’s been open. Photo by Charles Enoch

Napakiak elder James Nokowallera, stopped in to pick up his paycheck. He has worked here since he was a kid in the early days of the store.

“I’ll miss the store after it closes, it was the only place I’ve ever worked. I remember when I was a kid, Gladys Jung would come and get me for work because we’d start at 9 in those days,” said Nokowallera.

Molly Black working in her office at Napakiak Corporation office. Photo by Charles Enoch

Molly Black working in her office at Napakiak Corporation office. Photo by Charles Enoch

Molly Black is the administrator at the Napakiak Corporation, which is purchasing the store.

Black, too, worked at Jung’s Store for over 30 years before moving to the corporation. She says she’ll miss Jung’s too.

“I wish they were still, would be in business, but at the same time we need more space here,” said Black.

Black said the corporation hopes to offer the same kind of service, but the flavor will likely change. She adds the new store will mainly serve as an extension of the corporation store.

The Napakiak Corporation plans to finalize their purchase of Jung’s Trading Post sometime in the new year.

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