Photo courtesy of Lynn Brautigam Boots
Growing up in the town of Spenard was much different than growing up in the neighborhood today. Lynn Brautigam Boots would know — she was born in Spenard when the state was still a territory.
As a child, Boots and her family would pick berries where Replacement Glass on Fireweed now stands. Across from West High School, children would play with a rope tow on a ski hill. Before Westchester Lagoon was constructed, she and her friends would run out across the mudflats.
Holy Rosary Academy used to house Maxine’s Beauty Salon. The Alyeska Candy Kitchen lived in the small strip mall where Enlighten and So Thai are today. Caribou Wards had the first escalator in the Northern Lights Center. There were small log cabins all down Spenard Road back then.
“In those days, in the 60s, snow machines — as long as they weren’t on the road — were legal… I remember getting caught in the Inlet,” Boots laughed.
Boots grew up working at her parents’ store, the Little Cuties Shop, which started out of the basement of their home. In 1962, they built out a storefront and expanded into the back of the house before changing the name to Junior Towne, a Spenard staple that provided young Alaskans with clothing options for 55 years. Their storefront was located across from what is now Holy Rosary Academy on the west end of Fireweed.
From winter clothing to cribs and car seats and socks, Junior Towne had everything a growing family might need. Around 1970, Boots says she and her family moved out of the back of the store, providing more space for their products.
“A lot of people remember the dresses and the suits because they were special,” Boots said. “We carried a brand called Martha’s Miniatures and I still hear people say, ‘Oh, do you remember the little bell?’”
Junior Towne was a family operation — one that Boots has been part of since she was a young child.
“A number of my friends laugh because [in order] to watch Saturday morning cartoons, we had to make bows,” Boots said. “We had a bow machine which was a hand-crank thing. If we wanted to watch cartoons, we had to make bows while we were doing it. That started when we were 4 or 5 [years old].”
Oftentimes, Boots’ mother, Esther Brautigam, would help fashion shows alongside charitable organizations to highlight their new additions to the storefront. Boots said they participated in them, usually with a dress shop like the Hat Box or the Smart Shop.
“In those things when my mother had it, fashion shows were a big deal,” Boots said. “I remember modeling and a lot of my friends and my brother’s friends, too — were nabbed. Of course, the people who did the fashion shows always had their kids in it, too.”
Boots took over the business after her mother’s death in 1986 and ran it for 32 years before deciding to retire. Two of their employees had been with her for 25 years, both of whom wanted to retire. The electrical in the building needed to be updated and they were due for a remodel.
Junior Towne was known for big, elaborate window displays. When she decided to retire, the window display paid homage to her mother and family, with clothing Boots wore as a child and items her own sons wore.
Boots had buyers interested in purchasing the store, but she wanted to go out on her own terms.
“We kind of went out on top, which was wonderful,” Boots said. “I never found somebody who I thought would continue the family tradition.”
Retirement has treated Boots and her husband well. They have been on a number of motorcycle tours around the world, from Australia to Morocco and Japan. It’s allowed her to spend more time with her grandchildren, and the opportunity to volunteer.
“I used to roll my eyes when people would come in the store and say, ‘I don’t know how I had time to work,’ and now I understand,” Boots said.