The Army/Navy story began in World War II Anchorage, where two soldiers spent their downtime: “Captain Glenn Miller of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and his sergeant John “Mac” McManamin liked to come in and play pool at Big Ray’s bar. Graduates of the Great Depression, Miller and Mac saw Anchorage as a business bonanza waiting to happen. They figured that when the war was over they would sell military surplus cold weather gear: Boots, pants, parkas, jerry cans, and ahkio sleds. There was a market, and Miller and Mac could supply.” After the war, McManamin, Miller, and fellow serviceman Howard Cruver opened the Army/Navy Surplus Store on bustling 4th Avenue.
During the 50s and 60s, Oil exploration brought vast amounts of money and manpower to the state. Seizing the moment, the partners opened a second store in Fairbanks, run by none other than Milan “Big Ray” Raykovitch—their old friend. Big Ray’s moved around downtown Fairbanks, occupying a Quonset hut near the Chena River before opening at the current 2nd Avenue location in 1951. Oil Discoveries in the late 60s changed the complexion of Alaska and Big Ray’s/Army/Navy. The stores that provided Army surplus clothing and gear suitable for those dwelling in the harsh climate of Alaska would become the all-weather outfitter for workmen and women during the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
The original partners would keep the company in the family, with a few additions. In 1951 Richard Cruver—Howard’s brother—moved to Anchorage to help manage Army/Navy. When Howard became ill, Richard replaced him as partner. Later, McManamin left the company, beginning a career in real estate. He bought the Army/Navy building and leased it to Cruver and Miller. In 1979 Richard and Glen sold the business to their sons, Mark Cruver and Mike Miller, who own and manage the Anchorage store to this day. Monty Rostad, a longtime employee, became an equal partner in 1980, managing the Fairbanks store.
In 2008, the group purchased Mack’s Sport Shop, a sporting goods business started in a Kodiak bedroom by electronics technician Ray Mackie. The store, which supplied local hunters with ammo, firearms, and other supplies, was purchased by Tom and Cheryl Merriman in 1983. Under the Merriman’s ownership, Mack’s Sport Shop expanded and received the Alaska State Small Business of the Year award in 1998.
Army/Navy has weathered the trials and tribulations of more than 60 years in Alaska: Statehood, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the devastating 1964 earthquake (which destroyed 4th Avenue but not the store) and a post-pipeline slump in the 1980s. What started as a small surplus store on 4th Avenue became Alaska’s premiere outfitter with five locations and over 100 employees. We may have changed with the times but our mission has not: to meet the needs of Alaskan workers as they confront the challenges of the last frontier.