The amount of talent, inspiration, and hard work in this small town never ceases to amaze me. Maybe it’s because the beauty of this place is truly inspiring. Maybe it’s because the many residents who work seasonally in the commercial fishing industry are afforded time every year to explore other passions. Maybe it’s the blend of so many different cultures and backgrounds (Philipino, Native, European, South American, scientists, adventurous spirits) drawn to the economic opportunities of the fishery but choosing to stay for the community and subsistence lifestyle. Whatever the reason, Cordova seems to have way above average amounts of artists, entrepreneurs and small-business owners per capita.
Strolling the streets of downtown gives only the smallest glimpse at the depths of artistry and ingenuity found in this town. Here’s a list of some creators and cultivators worth exploring if you want to take home a piece of this amazing place.
- The Net Loft is the kind of place you can get lost in … in the best way possible. Dotty’s carefully curated collection of yarns, crafting supplies, kitchenware, linens, jewelry, cards, scrapbooking supplies, books, patterns, accessories and crafting supplies seem to cover almost every inch of shelving, wall space and window ledge. Not only does she share all her favorite finds with you, but she’ll often special order if she doesn’t have it. The Net Loft offers an abundance of classes as well: beginners knitting and crochet to advanced sweater making classes, needle-felting, paper painting and cutting, and handcrafting of all sorts. I dare you to walk into that store and try to come out empty handed!
- Prince William Sound Science Center does really interesting and important research and education in the region. Stop by their facility and pick up a piece of their stylish merch.
- Copper River Fleece has become somewhat of an icon of culture and style throughout the state. Alaska Airlines even made it part of their uniform! It’s not hard to see why. It’s stylish, unique and extremely appropriate for all types of weather and dress. Walk into their store on Main Street to choose a style and then spend the next several hours trying every combination of specialty trim. No matter what you choose, you won’t regret it. By the way, don’t be surprised if when you’re wearing it, someone stops you and says, “Is that from Cordova?!”
- Copper River Watershed Project is a local nonprofit that promotes a salmon-rich, intact watershed and culturally diverse communities. But you’ll probably be pulled into their doors by their awesome gift shop featuring creations by local artisans and books written by local authors (I told you we’ve got a lot of talented makers here!)
- Teal Barmore Photography Teal fell in love with Cordova was she was only 19; went to school for photography and came back to capture its spirit almost perfectly. Take a look through her online gallery and see if it rings true to your experiences here. She sometimes sells her work at shows and through her website, but you can also enjoy looking through her lens on several local social media accounts that she content-curates and manages through her other business, Cordova Creative Media.
- Ilanka Cultural Center Come for the fully articulated orca whale skeleton. Stay for the beautifully hand-beaded native jewelry!. You see, throughout history, Cordova was an epicenter of convergence for several different native cultures including Eyak, Alutiiq, Ahtna and Tlingit peoples. Go explore their traditions and history… and gift shop!
- David Little Photography His work is stunning, capturing the insanely beautiful backdrops of Cordova timelessly. The best place to find his work is in card-from or matted, for sale at one of Cordova’s favorite places to get coffee, liquor, snacks and gifts: Laura’s on Main Street.
- Cordova Historical Society As a nonprofit, they work to collect, curate and share artifacts of Cordova’s vibrant and storied past. They operate a museum in the Cordova Center with the most delightful gift shop, benefiting their labors. You’re sure to find something fun, interesting, or unique.
Alaska Glacial Mud Company is a spa-quality natural beauty line dreamt up and made real by Cordova resident Lauren Padawer. Not only are these products amazing for your skin and good for the environment (100% organic and sustainably made), the business also gives back a percentage of all sales to support nonprofits protecting and educating about its home (which also happens to be the largest contiguous wetland in North America).