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Rapid Growth

The Fred Meyer shopping centers in Fairbanks are a current major source of supplies for today’s residents. Remember when their first stores were built in town? Well, actually, the Fred Meyer chain was an influence here long before then, as this article reflects:

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner November 5, 1951

“Nevada Kid” Market Grew From Tent in Two Years

In two short years the Nevada Kid store at Gaffney Road and Cushman street has grown from a tent with a wooden entrance, to a store whose proprietor works in the smartest office this reporter has seen in Fairbanks!

That statement is only the beginning, for Byron Gillam, owner of the Nevada Kid enterprises is going right on expanding. A new store, plans for which have not been announced, is being built right now, and Mr. Gillam is in the process of putting in his own heating plant and sinking a well of such proportions, that the Fairbanks fire department will use its water for firefighting in the South Cushman district within a radius of a block and a half.

All this and much more can be told about the man who came to Fairbanks from Seward in 1946, determined to supply Fairbanks with fine foods at the cheapest possible prices. Gillam’s first business venture in Fairbanks was the acquisition of the Nevada Bar on First Avenue, so named by miners who had come to Fairbanks in the gold rush, and had found gold indoors instead on in the hills.

Wanting a bottle liquor license, the Chena liquor store was next to come under management. Almost before the ink had dried on the transfer, the maritime strike closed the new store for three months. It was at that time that the Coastwise Steamship company, operating out of Portland, Oregon, came into being and Gillam, seeing an opportunity to get food into Fairbanks with more speed and efficiency than had heretofore been possible, completed a buying plan with the Fred Meyer stores of Portland.

Than plan is still in operation, with most of the supplies for all of the Nevada Kid stores coming by steamship from Portland, being transferred to his own trucks at Valdez, and rushed to Fairbanks.

Opening with army surplus, and such top brands as Hunt’s and Selby’s the “Canvas Carnival,” the tent only 26 by 40 feet, has grown into the present Cushman street store. Its capable manager, Mr. Fred Gates, is a George Meyer trained executive who came to Fairbanks to manage the rapidly growing food store.

Note: The Nevada Kid grocery store was sold in the late 1950s to Foodland, who later built the round building on Gaffney Rd. The Nevada Kid ran cheesy ads in the News-Miner that were fun to read. This bargain of a History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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