If a renter has moving on their mind, a letter asking for nearly twice as much in rent isn’t going to keep them in place.
That’s the scenario business owners, who previously rented space inside the three-story historic building located downtown at Front and Franklin streets known as the Triangle Building, said prompted a recent wave of moves.
“I was thinking about moving into a larger unit anyway,” said Ben Huff, owner of Ice Fog Press, in a phone interview. “When we got that letter saying, ‘We’re increasing your rent by almost double,’ I was looking for a new place the next day.”
He’s not the only one to recently make that business decision for mostly same reasons, and the departures include longtime tenants.
After more than 40 years in the Triangle Building, Hearthside Books is in the process of moving to the Merchant’s Wharf. Annie Kaill’s, which had been a Triangle Building presence for nearly 35 years, said farewell to Front Street in March.
Colleen Goldrich, owner of Annie Kaill’s, said a letter similar to Huff’s was the nudge she needed to actively pursue finding a new, bigger location for the business.
“I think we all got the letter,” said Goldrich, who added she is satisfied with her post-move Seward Street location. “For us, the rent increase was a blessing in disguise.”
Huff said he recalled receiving the letter in early 2019, which led to his spring move. He said he was surprised by the letter since the building had been under new ownership for a while by the time the letter came.
City and Borough of Juneau Assessor’s Database lists the building’s last transaction date as September 2017, and the owner as Skagway Jewelry, and the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development lists Indresh R. Chawla as the limited liability company’s lone officer. The assessor’s database does not list the business as owning other property in the borough.
Skagway Jewelry could not be contacted for this article, so the reasoning behind the rent increases and future plans for the building are both unclear.
All business owners who spoke to the Empire said they have had limited or no contact with the building’s owners and typically use Exit Realty, which manages the property, as go-between if they need something.
Roger Porto, a broker for Exit Realty, declined to talk for this article and referred the Empire to speak to the Triangle Building’s owner Skagway Jewelry. Porto said he did not have their contact information to share and did not provide a name associated with the business.
A message sent to an email address associated with the same Skagway PO box listed as the owner’s address in the Juneau assessor’s database went unanswered for a week. A follow-up message also received no response. A phone number for a Skagway Jewlery store listed with both the PO box number and email address did not ring.
While business owners said potential rent increases were a major factor in their moves, they weren’t the only factor.
The Triangle Building, which was built in 1928-29, according to City and Borough of Juneau, shows its age inside and outside.
Huff said heating could be inconsistent, and Brenda Weaver, owner of Hearthside Books, said customers who use wheelchairs had trouble accessing her store.
“It’s a business decision based on the best financial situation, access and comfort for customers,” Weaver said of her move.
Huff said in light of potentially paying more in rent, a space in need of some extra care and no obvious indication improvements were coming, moving just made sense.
Despite complaints and moving out of the building, business owners were uniformly non-bitter and said Exit Realty did an adequate job managing the property.
Goldrich and Weaver each said they do not know what is planned for the building’s future, but they wished future businesses the best.
“It’s a cool building,” Goldrich said. “I hope whatever goes in there is something great for downtown. I hope they get it filled quickly.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.