Wang succeeded his father at the helm of Alaskan Fur Company, a family retail fur fashion business founded in 1926. A passionate voice for the fur coat industry and its customers, Wang has been associated with the Fur Information Council of America (FICA) since its inception. He has served the organization as co-chair and holds honorary president status. Well-known for his knowledge of fur and his ability to spot fur business trends, he is an oft-quoted source in fur industry and consumer media. Likewise, associates and long-time customers at the Alaskan Fur Kansas City flagship salon frequently request his expertise.
has an expansive view of the potential marketplace for Alaskan furs. “Every individual living in a cold weather climate is a potential customer for the mink coats and fine fur fashions Alaskan represents,” says Wang. “I want to serve everyone from a teenager to the most respected society matron.” The core principles of his business philosophy are: hire good people, train and treat them well, then let them do their job; offer the best quality fur coats and accessories available in every price range in order to grow with the customer; give the customer compelling reasons to come into the store at least twice a year; continuously communicate with customers and staff. His Alaskan Fur associates credit him with being a skilled salesperson that is happiest when helping customers find the perfect fur coat.
Love is the third generation to lead the privately held Alaskan Fur Company, one of the nation’s oldest and largest furriers. Like her father Myron, Love is a strong advocate for the fur coat industry. She is a board member and former chair of the Fur Information Council of America, the first woman in the organization’s history elected to the top post. Love is regarded in the retail fur fashion industry as a trend-spotter. She has a keen eye for talented young fashion designers and the ability to place Alaskan Fur in the avant-garde of retailers showcasing emerging designers or fur coat trends destined for success.
Love operates Alaskan Fur with a business philosophy that values each individual – customer, employee or vendor – as a potential contributor to Alaskan Fur’s success. “My father taught me from the beginning that every customer is important and deserves to be treated the same, whether that person spends $100 or $10,000.” Love learned the fur business from the ground floor up and the value of money in early childhood by retrieving customers’ mink coats from storage for a modest per fur sum. Love maintains a love affair with the business. She enjoys traveling to international fur markets to find the diverse variety of fur coats and accessories for Alaskan Fur customers. Like her father, Love enjoys working with customers in the Alaskan Fur salon. “This is a happy place. A woman who buys a mink coat or receives a fur coat as a gift is happy,” says Love. “How can you not be happy when you have the opportunity every day to make someone else feel that way?”
Zimmerman left a promising career with an accounting practice to join Alaskan Fur Company in 1973. He had worked in a shoe store during high school and college and had always found it a dynamic, interesting business. “I always enjoyed meeting people and selling,” says Zimmerman. His responsibilities with the Kansas City-based fur fashion retailer include store management, customer and employee relations, administration, and of course, sales. “A little bit of everything,” is how Zimmerman describes his role in a family fur business that values teamwork and serving customers over job descriptions or titles.
Zimmerman is known for his affable personality and his visible presence on the fur salon sales floor. “I love the people, love the challenge,” says Zimmerman. He is adept at solving two significantly different customer dilemmas: repurposing a mink fur coat that is no longer wearable and finding the right fur coat for a gift. Remodeling or restyling a fur coat requires sensitivity as well as furrier skills. “Oftentimes there is a sentimental attachment to a fur coat,” says Zimmerman. “It is important to understand the customer’s fur story and expectations before explaining the possibilities.” Alaskan Fur sales associates take special pleasure in assisting holiday gift shoppers with purchasing their luxurious fur coat for a loved one. “A man’s idealized view of his wife’s size or his desire to give her a statement fur coat may lead to a post-holiday return,” says Zimmerman. He may choose a big blue fox fur coat that, while lovely, is not the sleek, understated sheared mink stroller she dreamed of.”
Atkinson is the only true furrier left in Kansas City and is among the last in America. The arcane craft of the furrier requires in-depth knowledge of every phase of making or repairing a fur garment and working with skins – knowledge that is vanishing from the scene as more manufacturing processes have become specialized. Much of Atkins’ work involves re-sizing or re-styling fur coats that no longer fit or are no longer in style. Many of his customers are bringing garments originally purchased by their mothers or grandmothers. Re-making garments for a new generation is work that requires great care in handling the old furs or blending them with new ones.
It is a job well suited to a perfectionist like Bart. In fact, it was his perfectionist trait that attracted the attention of Alaskan Fur’s now-deceased master furrier of more than 40 years, Oscar Donahue, soon after Atkins joined the company in 1980 as a fur cleaner. Bart considers himself fortunate to have been mentored by Donahue for 10 years. “He took an interest in me and eventually asked me to pick up the trade,’ says Bart. I give Oscar a lot of the credit for the furrier I’ve become. He made me learn the hard way, step by step.” Atkins, now with over 25 years experience as a furrier, is a master furrier himself, a designation that requires 25 years experience.