Changes in Tenakee

I realize things change, but sometimes the “improvements” seem to involve a loss. A loss of what was, a loss of a little piece of history.

Snyder Mercantile
The original early twentieth century interior of Snyder Mercantile, Tenakee
The Snyder Mercantile was a time capsule of another era. Built over a century ago the store was a glimpse into the past. The products on the shelves were fresh, mostly, but the store appeared much as it did decades ago. A single room with a little of everything from bread to fishing tackle and boat parts. They still used the century old cash register to ring up your sale. Never mind the trouble finding tape and ribbons, it still worked, emitting a classic bell ring as the total was calculated.

Snyder Mercantile
The rebuilt Snyder Mercantile, Tenakee
I was not pleasantly surprised when I made my way into the store. The old mercantile was gone, a modern interior greeted me. Some time since my last visit the past had been swept away. For a minute I could only stand there in the entrance, a feeling of loss overwhelming me. Some time in the last couple years the store has been rebuilt.

Much of the building has been replaced, from pilings to decking new lumber can be seen. The interior pays homage to the original, the walls made from the original tongue and groove woodwork stripped and stained. The stock is groceries, the hardware and tackle is mostly gone, only a few shelves remain. The old cash register is relegated to being a museum piece in the corner, a new computerized machine with a touch screen and laser scanner serves in its place. The satisfing crunch of gears and bell no longer signals each sale.

Snyder Mercantile
The rebuilt Snyder Mercantile in Tenakee
Having skipped Tenakee last season I had missed the changes. The renovations were completed last year. To be fair the renovations were probably necessary. The years of Alaskan winters had taken a toll on the structure. This climate is not kind to the works of man, particularly those built of wood. The location, built on pilings over a tidal flat makes this even worse.

Having first shopped in Snyder Mercantile back in 1994 I have been visiting this store for over two decades. Goods brought out from Juneau are not cheap, but we always have something that has run out after a week on the water. Tenakee means a few groceries and a soak in the hot springs. The changes are good, the store is better, but the rebulding of the century old store still seems a loss.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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