Last summer, Jacqui Ertischek wrestled with whether or not she should close her art gallery in midtown. But when the FlyPaper! gift shop next door folded, she decided to take a leap of faith and expand into the empty storefront.


“We all have our craziness,” Ertischek said with a laugh. “Talking to the mannequins is one of mine.”


Ertischek acknowledged that it’s not an especially good time to expand a business in Alaska, especially for art galleries like 2 Friends, which depends on upscale clients.


Three years ago, the price of oil was more than a $100 a barrel. Today, it’s about half that amount. During this time, Alaska has lost a lot of jobs, which means there is less cash to circulate in the economy.


Ertischek is also worried about the state legislature’s inability to solve the state’s fiscal crisis.


“They can’t make any kind of decision, so it’s very hard to do long-range planning,” Ertischek said. “I’m very frustrated with what’s going on in Juneau. It’s not only for me, it’s for everybody.”


But she took this into account in her expansion plan, with more room for art pieces that appeal to those with less disposable income.


Ertischek is optimistic about her business strategy.


“I think, no matter what, people buy gifts for other people,” she said. “Are they buying as much artwork? Not really. But that’s OK.”


Most of the art at the 2 Friends Gallery is Alaskan. Ertischek says she wants to continue to support local art, especially the work of Alaska Natives, who seem to have fewer places to sell their work.


Ertischek, who grew up in the Bronx and Long Island in New York, has lived in Alaska for 40 years. She says she knows her store’s expansion is a big gamble, but she’s betting that she’s made the right decision.


“I know what I feel,” she said. “I know that we have lots of customers.”


KTVA 11’s Rhonda McBride can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.


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