Senior Bosses
Running a business after retirement age
By Nancy Erickson
digital illustration of two seniors dancing
Irina Cheremisinova | iStock

ge is just a number to the growing ranks of business owners over the age of 65.

According to the March 2023 issue of Alaska Economic Trends, published by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the state’s senior population grew from 54,900 in 2010 to 94,000 in 2020, and the growth rate continues to climb. The over-65 age group grew 12 percent in the last two years alone, reaching 105,600 in 2022.

Many of those seniors are not quite ready to kick back, put up their feet, and enjoy those “golden” years.

In an AARP website article, “Who’s Working More? People Age 65 and Older,” the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 13 million people in that age group nationwide will still be working by 2024.

“These older workers will constitute the fastest-growing segment of the workforce from 2014 to 2024,” the article states. “While the total number of workers is expected to increase by 5 percent over those ten years, the number of workers ages 65 to 74 will swell by 55 percent. For people 75 and older, the total will grow a whopping 86 percent,” according to BLS projections.

What’s the impetus behind these figures?

Three Alaskans still in business after age 65 share a simple reason to stay in the workforce: they love what they’re doing.

Man Behind the Voice
Jack Frost turns 85 in July, but the familiar advertising voice that Anchorage radio listeners know and love is ageless.

Born in Portland, Oregon and raised in the Seattle area, Frost had sights on a career in radio and television at an early age. He enrolled at the University of Washington and graduated in exactly four years with a degree in radio-television.

Graduation day was hectic, Frost recalls.

“I was commissioned in the Army (from ROTC) at 8 a.m. that morning, attended graduation at 1 p.m. that afternoon, and was married to the female vice president of the student body at 7 p.m.,” Frost says. The couple were married for ten years and had three sons.

Following his stint in the military, Frost returned to Seattle and began his radio career as a disc jockey at KIXI, KVI, and KING. Management at KING thought Frost would do better in sales and sent him to Spokane to learn the trade at KREM.

From there Frost partnered with an ad agency in Spokane, and his career path was forged.

Fast forward to 1974, when Frost arrived in Anchorage to help a former advertising client from Seattle who was trying to buy Anchorage Chrysler.

“I worked for them for about a year, when Ron Moore at KBYR hired me to be the radio operations director,” says Frost. “From there my life took me back to the agency business, where I remain to this day,” as Jack Frost & Friends advertising agency.

His ad agency got a huge boost in the mid ‘80s when, on a dare, Frost’s now familiar radio ads with New Sagaya took wing.

“I’m at the time in my life and career where it’s the work that brings me joy. Helping others create a beautiful environment/garden/organized space fuels my life.”
Ginny Jacober, Owner, Blue Bear Design
Frost was general manager at KENI in 1986, when the AM station acquired an FM counterpart, KKGR (no longer in the Anchorage market), with Frost as sales manager for both stations. Sales staff who had trained under Frost sold three times the advertising as KKGR staff, so he began teaching them his method.

“One of their salespeople, who shall remain nameless, just flat refused to do it, so I told him to pick out his toughest client and take me with him on a sales call,” recalls Frost. “My salesman licked his chops and chose Sagaya. He knew I would fall on my face and he would be proved right.”

“I met [Sagaya owner] Paul Reid for the first time that day, and in an hour we had a strategy to save his business plus an order for the advertising to carry out the plan,” says Frost.

Ginny Jacober headshot
Ginny Jacober launched Blue Bear Design at the age of 54 and still runs the business today.

Daryl Pederson

“My salesman was outraged,” he adds. “He said, ‘You know radio advertising won’t work that way. You’ll have him on the air too much, and the listeners will get sick of hearing about Sagaya. You’ll put him out of business.’”

Turns out, not so much. “Just for the record—Sagaya’s ads were a success from day one,” Frost says. “They worked the first week—the first year—and the more they are on, the better they work. They are still working.”

Thus began his reputation as a guy who goes against the rules and ends up being right.

Frost says it’s not his voice alone that makes listeners pay attention to his ads, but his conversational style.

“I like to think I’m talking with people, not to or at them,” he says. “I write most of my own commercials, so it is certainly my style. And I don’t take things seriously. If I get a goofy thought like ‘loincloth-clad crab divers’ or ‘Lemuel and Yoshi Sagaya’ or ‘Mama Sagaya’s sourdough starter’ or ‘bring your gunnysack,’ I just say it.”

Susie (left) and Dorothy (right) Urbach, both now of retirement age, instead work as partners to run the family business: Urbach’s Clothiers, established in Seward in 1915.

Urbach Clothiers

Susie and Dorothy Urback
Broadcasting isn’t his only claim to fame.

Shortly after arriving in Anchorage, Frost was named the first Governor’s Award winner for outstanding service to Alaska by the Alaskan of the Year Committee. He served as executive director of the Iditarod Trail Committee and chairman of the Municipal Ethics Committee, among other roles.

Frost was elected to the Alaska Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 1999. He was bestowed the “Best of the North” BONNIE award in 1999/2000 as the Advertising Professional of the Year by the Advertising Federation of Alaska.

His run for Anchorage’s mayor in 2000 and 2006 didn’t come to fruition, but a disappointed Frost says, “I really believe that was the time we could have made Anchorage a better place.”

But his number one highlight is raising his three sons, all of whom he says have wonderful, loving families and are more creative and successful than himself.

As for his greatest achievement?

A beautiful woman named Irene, whom he says “is happy, lovely, intelligent, speaks seven languages, is a wonderful companion, and keeps me on the straight and narrow.”

Frost adds, “Not a bad catch for an old guy, huh?”

“I still come into work every day… I’m not the type to sit home. I love our business. I like meeting people. I like being involved. I just want to enjoy it. I don’t have to stay all day.”
Dorothy Urbach, Co-owner, Urbach’s Clothiers
A Seward Icon
Old-fashioned storefronts lining Seward’s downtown Fourth Avenue business district have changed faces multiple times over the years since gold miners and adventure seekers stepped off steamships in the early 1900s—except one.

Through earthquakes and fires, Urbach’s Clothiers has steadfastly occupied the same building, in the same location, owned by the same family since 1915.

It still retains its old-time charm. The smell of oiled hardwood floors and leather shoes permeates the store. Antiques from days gone by sit high upon a shelf circling the one-room shop. And money is still deposited into a huge brass and oak cash register dating back to 1908.

At age 96, family matriarch Dorothy Urbach still runs the store and goes on buying trips to Portland, Oregon—with the help of her daughter and co-owner Susie Urbach, who recently turned 65.

“I still come into work every day,” says Dorothy. “I’m not the type to sit home. I love our business. I like meeting people. I like being involved. I just want to enjoy it. I don’t have to stay all day.”

Susie became involved in the business more than thirty years ago as a bookkeeper when her children were small. Mother and daughter became partners in 2004, and Susie now takes care of the office work and much of the ordering as well as working with customers.

“When I was growing up here, I thought ‘No way would I like to be a part of that,’” Susie recalls. “But now I love it… it’s a passion!”

The business has maneuvered through a lot of changes since Dorothy’s father-in-law, Leon Urbach, opened the shop in 1915, focused on outfitting the working men arriving to the fledgling town on the shores of Resurrection Bay in search of a new life.

Dorothy and her husband Larry were living in the Lower 48 when Leon informed the couple that a deal to sell the store had fallen through, and he asked if they would consider taking it over. Hesitant at first, Larry agreed, and he and his wife arrived in Seward in 1954. Dorothy found herself a full-time business owner after her husband died in 1999.

In Leon’s time, the store carried 80 percent men’s and 20 percent women’s clothing. Those numbers reversed under Dorothy’s tenure.

Jack Frost recording vocals in the studio
Decades past retirement, Jack Frost nonetheless continues to lend his vocal talents to local businesses through his advertising agency Frost & Friends.

Patricia Morales | Alaska Business

“It’s not touristy anymore—it’s kind of ‘boutique-y,’” Susie says of the high-end line of clothing they carry for women. “We still sell a ton of Carhartts for men, women, and children. Something I really enjoy is that the products we carry have changed, too, so it’s kind of a reflection on our tastes.”

Having been in business for so long, the co-owners know their product and guide customers in finding the right size. A service not found in box stores, that’s something customers appreciate, and the customer is what’s important, says Dorothy.

Competition from online shopping is a challenge, however.

“We have people come in, try something on, and then go buy it online,” says Susie.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t tell us that’s what they were going to do,” quips Dorothy.

It’s not all work and no play for the nonagenarian.

“I still live in my house. Still love entertaining, having people over. I enjoy people,” Dorothy adds. She has also been active in her community, serving on various boards and committees.

And fishing.

“Oh, I love to fish. I still go fishing every year,” she says with enthusiasm.

Dorothy has been a familiar face at Seward’s Silver Salmon Derby both as a participant and as publicity chairman, taking first place in the derby in 1979.

She reflects on her almost seventy years as a business owner.

“Moving back here was the best move we ever made,” says Dorothy of their return in 1954. “What a wonderful life we have up here. I’m very lucky. I have two wonderful daughters, two wonderful grandchildren, and three wonderful great grandchildren. What else could we ask for?”

“I like to think I’m talking with people, not to or at them… And I don’t take things seriously. If I get a goofy thought like ‘loincloth-clad crab divers’ or ‘Lemuel and Yoshi Sagaya’ or ‘Mama Sagaya’s sourdough starter’ or ‘bring your gunnysack,’ I just say it.”
Jack Frost, Owner, Frost & Friends
Finding Solutions
Anchorage resident Ginny Jacober has extended her childhood passion into a lifetime of enjoyment.

Encouraged by her artistic family, Jacober spent her childhood surrounded by watercolors, crayons, modeling clay, and a miniature sewing machine—things that helped mold her goal to become a commercial artist.

She studied fine arts, worked as a graphic designer, and settled into the more personal interior design field, opening Blue Bear Design in 1998 at the age of 54, with a goal to provide affordable interior design, organization, and garden design.

“I love finding solutions,” says Jacober of her business. “It’s almost like putting a puzzle together.”

Jacober arrived in Alaska in 1972 from her native California and, when searching for a name for her new business, wanted something that expressed her love for her new home.

“I had heard about the blue bear, a type of black bear with sliver-blue hair in Southeast Alaska,” she recalls. “Some Native people view a bear as representing strength and for what is true. I chose the female bear with two cubs as a symbol for a mother bear protecting her young. So I look out for my clients and help design within their wishes and budget.”

Jacober was the “mother bear” of two sons in the ‘70s. “Best job in the world, as the saying goes,” she says.

The ‘80s brought another adventure—flying lessons.

Blaming her love of flying on her upbringing as a military brat, Jacober bought a small experimental ultralight aircraft.

“It was the most exciting twenty years of my life. What an adventure,” she exclaims. “It was called sport flying. Our aircraft even had ballistic parachutes for a safe landing, if needed.”

Now 79, Jacober tried retirement in 2003, “but couldn’t stand it,” she says. She fulfilled another of her passions by becoming a certified master gardener in 2004 to 2005, adding garden design and plant selection to Blue Bear Design.

“Preferring a tidy environment led me to including organizing as another service I provide,” she adds. “I’m at the time in my life and career where it’s the work that brings me joy. Helping others create a beautiful environment/garden/organized space fuels my life.”