Sirens & Sailors, a Homer-based clothing company, operates seasonally out of a tiny, one-room building on the Homer Spit and at pop-ups, fairs and festivals around the state, providing income to owner, Jacqueline Burke, employment to her six workers and support for a statewide suicide prevention organization.
The business formed in 2021 with the Homer storefront operating since May 2022. Its name comes from Burke’s longtime fascination with sirens and Greek mythology.
“Sirens are fierce and not afraid to go after what they want and deserve,” Burke said. “They are underestimated, which I feel they can use as a strength. They are underestimated, yet can take down entire ships. And sailors are strong and can sail the rough seas knowing there are calm waters on the other side. They aren’t afraid of challenges, but chase them, embrace darkness that comes their way and use that darkness as a strength. Together, sirens and sailors make a bold pair.”
Burke was inspired to open her own business after graduating college in 2019 and at the age of 21, working a job that left her feeling disrespected and unable to live up to her full potential.
“That experience was very hard on my mental health and I wasn’t happy,” she said. “It made me realize that I wanted to become my own boss.”
A year and a half later, Burke quit her job and with a small savings and a large vision, created her clothing brand hoping that both Alaskans and visitors would enjoy.
Today, Sirens & Sailors has a statewide customer base and has evolved into a year-round business. The shop is open May to September on the Spit, and Burke and her crew of six also attend events and fairs across the state. In May, they set up at the Vintage Market in Palmer and the Mermaid Festival in Seward. In July, they travel to Eagle River for the Bear Paw Festival, to Ninilchik in August for Salmonfest and to Palmer for the Alaska State Fair from late August through early September. For the holiday season, they sell at The Holiday Vintage Market in Palmer in November and at A Holiday Marketplace in Fairbanks in December.
Burke also operates pop-ups at Latitude 65 Brewery in Fairbanks, Double Shovel Cider Company in Anchorage and Anchorage Distillery. She plans to pick up more events and pop-ups around the state, would like to sell in Juneau, Valdez and Kodiak and, at some point down the road, open a storefront in another coastal community. Wherever she sells, customer service is a top priority.
“These six individuals play a large role in the business and the success of the business,” she said. “I’m grateful for each and every one of them.”
Eager to help support a cause close to her heart, Burke has since she first opened her doors, donated a small percentage of every item sold to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention — Alaska (AFSP AK).
“I lost someone very close to me to suicide and know others who have attempted,” she said. “It’s a topic that isn’t discussed enough and we need more resources for those going through it. AFSP AK is a resource for those who have attempted, have suicidal thoughts and supports people who have lost loved ones to suicide.”
Marketed as a nautical and edgy Alaskan clothing company with a meaning, Sirens & Sailors merchandise includes jackets, waterproof windbreakers, hoodies, zip ups, crew necks, short and long sleeve T-shirts, tank tops, sweat pants, kids clothing, trucker caps, water bottles, stickers and more. Her best-selling items are the hoodies and windbreakers.
Creating the designs herself, Burke works with Alaskan artist Travis Kahahawai who brings her ideas to life, with printing done by an Alaskan screen-printing company with the Alaska flag on every piece of clothing. She also sells work by other Alaskan artists, including handmade sea glass and leather jewelry as well as hand-painted rocks and tiles. In this way, she supports Alaskan artists and businesses.
While Burke went to school for business management and communications, she said that putting what she learned into action has been an entirely different story.
“Sirens & Sailors is my first and only business as well as my passion, and I could write a book on the mistakes I’ve made and things I’ve learned the past three and a half years, but honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said. “I’ve learned from every mistake made and I wouldn’t know what I know now without going through difficult times and challenges.”
One of the lessons she has learned has been the importance of surrounding herself with positivity, support and encouragement.
“I have an incredibly supportive family, partner and his family and circle of friends, and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today and neither would the business,” she said. “They all believed in me from the start and grew to love the business as much as I do. It makes me emotional to think of all the people who have believed in me and my vision for Sirens & Sailors. I can’t thank our supporters and customers enough, including those who have been following us since I opened the business. I can’t believe how far Sirens & Sailors has come and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.”
Find Sirens & Sailors at 4474 Homer Spit Road, across from the Seafarer’s Memorial, open through Sept. 10 or as long as their inventory lasts, at Salmonfest Aug. 4-6 in Ninilchik and at the Alaska State Fair Aug. 18 to Sept. 4 along the purple trail near the barn. Visit the online store, aksirensandsailors.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.