Creative pursuit leads to unique boutique focused on Wrangell

Tracy Churchill believes in "Keeping it Authentic."

That's the tagline the graphic designer uses to celebrate the uniqueness of Wrangell, the community that inspired her Compass Line brand and led to the opening of a gift shop by the same name.

"We wanted to initially do some designs to sell in the other shops, and then decided at that time we might as well try to just carry some things nobody else has in town," Churchill said. The space at 321 Front St. became available in 2017, and the decision was made to open Compass Line Gift Shop.

Churchill and her two children, Kaylauna Churchill-Warren and Talon, set to painting the space, updating the floors and giving the shop its current feel.

"It was an opportunity to have the family all involved in something together," Churchill said.

Kaylauna contributes her photography for framed prints and postcards, and the family brainstorms when it comes to creating new products. "They have input on different things we might carry, different ideas, things they think might sell well," Churchill said. "Because they're younger than me and cooler than me."

Though there are a few local items made by family, women or independently owned businesses, the majority of product is under the Compass Line brand, like sweatshirts and T-shirts, soaps, candles and scent diffusers (which Churchill makes herself). She also makes favors and gift bags.

Churchill works six days a week, Monday through Saturday, which includes her graphic design business and various other side jobs, such as creating memorial programs for churches and funerals.

"(Tracy has) worked with a lot of different families (for funeral programs)," said Kem Haggard, pastor at Harbor Light Assembly of God. "She sits down and talks with the family, and she captures the person we're honoring. She just goes above and beyond in working with the family."

As someone who likes to stay busy, COVID-19 forced Churchill to switch gears a bit.

"I had to adapt. As soon as it was possible to open, I was immediately open under whatever circumstances I could be," she said. "This is my livelihood. ... (COVID) was a big hit for all the businesses."

The problems in supply chains also affected Compass Line's operations. Churchill said a lack of inventory sources forced her to get creative in where she was finding products. "It just makes me search for more independent, sole proprietors. I find craftsmen from all over. Obviously if I can't find them in Alaska, I search the West Coast."

It's important to Churchill that she knows where she spends her money, so that her customers know where they're spending their money.

"Even if I go in (to Compass Line) to look for something specific, I always find something else that I just have to have," said Kim Lane, who has shopped with the store since it opened. "Tracy is very knowledgeable about what people want in our community. She listens to what people say and finds what appeals to her customers. She is genuine and caring for sure."

When it comes to trying something new, Churchill is all in.

"Business-wise, I've always worked a lot, and it's never intimidated me to start something because I know I'll work hard," she said. "If I work really hard at something it will prove itself to be lucrative or not. A lot of it is just the time you put in."


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