Downtown Business Association gets new director in time for busy season

For the Downtown Business Association, the changes of the new year came a little early as the organization hired Alex Vrabec as its new director.

Vrabec, previously with the Brewer’s Guild of Alaska, has worked with the DBA before and is familiar with the landscape, she said.

“Both my parents are small business owners. I’ve seen the devastating effects that have occurred with the pandemic,” Vrabec said in a phone interview. “To be in a position where I can help and provide resources and connect people and help people collaborate, it feels good.”

The DBA, which exists to promote businesses and the culture of downtown Juneau, works with wide-ranging establishments from restaurants to mom-and-pop shops to the arts and culture organizations that exist in downtown Juneau, Vrabec said.

[Statter Harbor float damaged by high winds]

“I’m familiar with how these associations run and their overall goals. This is nice because it’s hyper-local, all downtown Juneau,” Vrabec said. “The major goal of the DBA is to promote downtown. They want to make it this environment people want to go and shop and hang out.”

DBA has been responsible for helping to organize events like Juneau’s Gallery Walk along with other organizations like the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, Vrabec said.

“We’re so, so excited. It’s kind of like a Juneau staple, and with missing it last year I think everyone’s excited to have it back,” Vrabec said. “We wanted to encourage people to get outside and spread out. That’s my focus this year, while still having the holiday spirit.”

For Vrabec, who came onboard earlier in November, it’s been a rapid learning curve.

“The good thing is that the infrastructure is already there,” Vrabec said. “We have things in the works currently that I think are really cool and I’m excited to jump in on.”

Among those things in the works include projects to improve lighting around the downtown area, Vrabec said, as well as a partnership with Eaglecrest to turn retired chairlift chairs into benches around downtown.

“I think we have 12 benches that will ultimately go up around town,” Vrabec said. “It’s really about showing off what the community is, and what makes it different.”

For Vrabec, it’s the people she gets to work with that make the job exciting, innovators and up-and-comers that make Juneau unique.

“What I was most excited about is the relationships I would get to rebuild and the new relationships I would get to make,” Vrabec said. “Being gone for a few years, I’ve missed a lot of people here.”

With the long term on the horizon, Vrabec’s short-term goal (after executing Gallery Walk with panache) is to promote late-game Christmas shopping in stores downtown, where there’s no shipping and no wait.

“A lot of people don’t realize that after Gallery Walk, things simmer down for a little bit,” Vrabec said. “My goal is to drive holiday traffic.”

Another goal of hers is to emphasize the family-friendliness of the downtown area, Vrabec said. Mother of a young daughter, Vrabec said there’s lots of options for families downtown.

“Coming back to Juneau — I’m a mom, I have a family,” Vrabec said. “(We’re) showing people downtown is family friendly and everyone can enjoy.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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