WASILLA — GG Mac owner Anna Gaines opened her small business during an interesting year.

Gaines sells her handcrafted French macarons at various events across the Valley. She said that she’s been keeping up despite the pandemic, noting the other local vendors may be experiencing hardships, but there’s been a strong sense of community support prevailing through the pandemic.

“I actually started the business over the summer, like in the middle of the pandemic. So, I don’t have much else to compare it to. There’s kind of a silver lining where I feel because of the pandemic happening, the smaller businesses kind of work together even more and there’s more of a community feel of everyone supporting each other,” Gaines said.

Gaines said that a lot of the larger craft fairs like the holiday bazaar held during Colony Christmas were cancelled this year. She said that the cancellation of the Alaska State Fair really hurt a lot of vendors, particularly those who rely heavily on profits from that time of year.

“That was a big hit for a lot of smaller businesses,” Gaines said.

Gaines and other small business owners have been talking through various Facebook groups to brainstorm ways to reach out to the community and try to make up for their losses. She said that’s been very helpful for a lot of people.

According to Gaines, numerous brick and mortar businesses have hosted “pop up” for local vendors, dedicating a section of their store to showcase locally made food, crafts and other wares for a period of time. She noted that pop ups aren’t a new concept, but it seems like more businesses are trying to provide these opportunities due to the continuous strains of COVID-19.

“I think in general, it’s helping a lot that small businesses are doing that,” Gaines said.

Gaines said that she had a pop up at the Meadow Lakes market this year. She also worked with Poppy Lane Mercantile earlier this month to feature her macrons in their store. She said it was a great collaboration and appreciated the opportunity, noting that the cross over between their followers and Facebook really helped.

“It was a good cross contamination of our followers,” Gaines said. “I think in general though, there’s been a lot more focus this holiday season for people to buy local and shop small.”

Gaines said that she grew up in Palmer and graduated from Palmer High School. She said that she got her bio engineering degree in New York and worked in Philadelphia for four years. She said that she decided to quit her career as an engineer and moved back to Alaska in 2019.

“I was a little homesick… My idea was to stay here for like six months and end up getting a job in Silicon Valley... but then the pandemic hit and everything was up in the air. I was already kind of unhappy working in tech and my dream was always to have my own business. That was kind of my retirement goal, but I ended up seeing the environment in the Palmer and the Valley and just how ripe it is for opportunity and having my family support there made me realize that, ‘oh, this isn’t a bad time to actually try something,’” Gaines said.

Gaines primarily sells her macarons at local craft fairs and other events, but she has aspirations to keep growing her business.

“I would like to be able to do it throughout the week, but I’m just getting started out,” Gaines said.

Gaines said that she’s planning to participate in a new market at the Mat-Su Borough Gym the first Saturday of the month that kicked off in November and runs through May.

“People are still having these events. A lot of these, they’re requiring masks. They are compiling to COVID protocols,” Gaines said.

Gaines took a moment to thank all the community members for their support during this time, thanking the shoppers for shopping local and her fellow business owners for promoting other local businesses. She said that she’s hopeful for the future.

“I think we’ll all come out of this strong. I think there’s a kind of renewed emphasis on supporting local and looking inward, and I hope that stays as we get out of this mess,” Gaines said. “I’m proud to be a part of this community.”

For more information about GG Macs, visit their Facebook page or their website at ggmacs.com.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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