Landmark Chugiak gift shop prepares to sell off decades of treasure
Mike Wallace inspects some of the thousands of accumulated collectibles recently at Fuji Gifts in Chugiak. The unique gift shop was owned by Wallace’s brother, Art, from 1964 until his death in 2010.
After spending nearly five decades as Chugiak’s most curious curio shop, the treasure trove known as Fuji Gifts is being liquidated.
“The building will be totally cleaned out,” said Chugiak’s Donna Henegar, who runs Alaska Auction Queens with her partner, Jessica Jansen.
The company was brought in by the estate of Art Wallace, who packed the former brick factory alongside the Old Glenn Highway with an incredible assortment of collectibles picked up from every corner of the globe.
“It’s more like a museum in here than anything,” said Art’s brother, Mike Wallace.
After arriving in Chugiak in the mid-50s, the Wallace brothers — Mike, Art and Til — ran a brick factory out of the building that now houses the gift shop. In 1964, Art converted the space to house his growing collection of items. For the next four decades, Art filled the shop with a staggering number of pieces — many of which remain in their original condition, Henegar said.
“Art would get stuff, catalog it and never open it again,” she said.
Til Wallace said Art was a world traveler who had a special fondness for the Orient. Many of his collectibles come from the Far East, although pieces from all around the world can be found tucked away in some corner of the store.
Henegar and Jansen began the task of sorting through the thousands of items last week. Henegar said she’s hopeful everything will be ready for an estate sale within a month’s time.
“We’re clipping right along,” she said, taking a break from sorting through piles of boxes in the building’s cramped upstairs storage area. “We’re ballparking we can get it done in about three weeks.”
Once the mind-boggling assortment of items — everything from hundreds of coffee mugs to a model Chinese junk to African statues to Japanese dolls to handpainted glass collectible plates to a cigar store Indian — are sorted and catalogued, Henegar said she’s planning a massive estate sale.
“Everything will be taken outside,” she said.
Art Wallace died in 2010. Since then, his brothers have run the store off and on, but Til said he knew the time would come when the store would have to be closed.
As per Art’s last wishes, all the proceeds from the sale of his accumulated treasure will go to the Wounded Warrior program, which helps wounded war veterans.
Henegar said her company’s fee will be covered by a donation from Lynden Transport, meaning 100 percent of the proceeds from the future sale will go toward the cause.
Going through such an array of items has been a fun challenge, Henegar said. She said she and Jansen spend much of their time trying to locate possible prices for the unusual haul of goods.
“We’re sitting here with our iPads and iPhones all day,” she said.
Some of the most unique items the women have found, they said, have included a Case equipment eagle statue and a hand-carved wooden chair. Getting to sift through more than 40 years worth of collecting, Henegar said, has been an amazing experience.
“This is like an episode of American Pickers, Pawn Stars and Antiques Road Show all rolled into one,” she said.
Til Wallace said he’s happy the proceeds will go toward a good cause. However, he said he’s also nostalgic about seeing the quirky old store’s time come to an end.
“A lot of memories here, I tell you,” he said.