Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Good luck in store — Prize winner passes thanks on to charity

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

An ivory statue meant to reward a lucky grand prize winner in a drawing held by a new local business will now pass its charm onto a lucky bidder at a fundraiser event for Planned Parenthood.

Carol Percival, co-owner of Tikahtnu Gallery and Gifts in Soldotna, gave away a Billiken figure carved out of mammoth ivory as the top prize in a drawing held to celebrate the store’s grand opening a month ago.

A Billiken is a jovial, bare-chested, usually somewhat portly figure with elf-like ears and a pointed head that’s thought to bring the owner good luck. Florence Pretz, a Missouri art teacher and illustrator, patented the design in 1908. Manufacturing of the figures began in 1909, and they were apparently sold as a publicity stunt for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. That may be how carvers in the Nome region came to incorporate the figure into their designs.

RoseMary Peterson won the statue in Tikahtnu’s drawing, but she didn’t have a place to put it in her home off Kalifornsky Beach Road, so she decided to donate it to Planned Parenthood in Soldotna for the organization to use in its auction fundraiser dinner Saturday.

“I just have no place to display it, and I thought that it would be a good cause,” Peterson said. “I used them (Planned Parenthood) before and thought it would be a good way to give them something back.”

Peterson said Planned Parenthood helped her get a mammogram when she couldn’t afford it.

Percival was happy for the figure to go to a good cause, even if it’s taking a roundabout way to get there.

“Now she’s passing on her good luck. I had a lot of admiration for her. So many of us would have just taken it home and said, ‘Thank you very much,’” Percival said.

“I hate to see him go, he’s been one of my favorites,” she said.

“He is extremely cute,” said Autumn Leach with Planned Parenthood when she stopped by the store Monday to pick up the statue.

The Billiken will be raffled off at the organization’s fundraiser dinner at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Crossing in Soldotna. The theme is “Food from around the world.” Only 80 tickets will be sold, 50 of which were already spoken for by Monday. Tickets are $40 per person or $70 per couple. Call Jackie or Jen at 262-2622 for more information or to buy a ticket.

Peterson had been planning on presenting the good-luck Billiken to Planned Parenthood herself, but was sick with the flu all weekend and couldn’t make it Monday.

“I probably should have hung onto it. Oh well, he’ll bring me good luck long distance,” she said.

Percival, a retired educator, opened Tikahtnu Gallery and Gifts with her daughters, Tara and Amber Lathrop. Tikahtnu, which is a Dena’ina word for Cook Inlet, sells scrubs for medical professionals, and almost everything else is handcrafted artwork and crafts made in Alaska.

“I have always wanted to do this,” Percival said. “I love these Alaska arts and I knew a lot of arts people and crafters who are very talented and thought it would be a nice idea to open a gift store.”

Many of the items the store sells are made by people on the central Kenai Peninsula, including handmade jewelry by Mindy Chamberlin of Sterling, Loraine Larsen of Kasilof and Laurie Cleary of the Kenai area.

Percival contacted the artists she knew and advertised for more artwork to get inventory for the store, and she approached craftspeople at the weekly summer markets.

“I thought, ‘Well, what do they do with all their wonderful goods during the winter?’ Maybe I can suggest to help them out in the winter,” she said.

She has work representative from art traditions across Alaska, as well as children’s toys, journals, greeting cards, hats and purses, and is on the lookout for more items.

“I’m constantly trying to increase our inventory with more variety, but definitely this is the place to buy your made-in-Alaska gifts to send Outside,” she said.

That’s been one of the biggest hits with the store so far, that almost everything sold is made in the state, she said.

“I am so pleased with the response,” Percival said. “People come in and say, ‘Oh, this is a nice store.’ Or I tell them it’s all made in Alaska and they say, ‘Oh, thank you for doing that.’ So many people are tired of buying things made in China, so people’s response has been wonderful.”

Percival put out comment cards to get shoppers’ input on what they’d like to see in the store.

“I’m really interested in it being something new and different for the local people,” she said. “… Considering the economy and the time of year, it’s going well. It’s going to take time for the communities to know we’re here.”

Percival created a store she likes to be in, and hopes others will like to be there, as well.

“I like to surround myself with this kind of thing. It makes me feel warm,” she said. “I just admire these people so much.”

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