Panic in the Parking Lot

January 13, 2018

Police barricading entry to parking lots

The scene down College Road this morning looked surreal; flashing lights, packed parking lots, and people lined up outside the building. This was just 10:30 a.m. the day Sam’s Club in Fairbanks re-opened after the announcement that they would be closing the store in two weeks. Police cars blocked off entrances, cars were diverted to back entrances to avoid any crashes, and assure that people were not stealing carts from other businesses to “get to the goods” inside.

Lined up to check out

Shoppers in line to buy out Sam’s Club

I learned later that the meats (verified gone by 2 pm) were marked 50% off, and everything else in the store was going for 25% off. The lines of people outside that circled around the building (at -13 below temperatures I might add) were waiting for carts. Inside the lines were backed down aisles that weren’t that crowded even on Black Friday.  Later at 5 pm, my daughter tried going with hopes of fewer crowds, only to be turned away at the door, with the explanation being that the clerks needed to be able to check-out the existing customers before 8 pm closing time.

To understand the impact the closure of such a large box store that locals have been dependent on for 20 years is difficult unless you realize how few options exist in the interior.  The first question when ordering on-line is “how much is the shipping?”  Many private and corporate sites won’t even discuss shipping to Alaska.

The economic trickle down was evident in a conversation I had with a 30 year resident in Healy, Alaska, 250 miles south near Denali Park.  He had come to town to pick up a script from the Sam’s Club pharmacy.  His answer to the closure was to simply transfer the prescription to the newly opened pharmacy in Healy and not make the trip to town.  The outlying villages, so dependent upon “bush mail” a term that refers to transportation of goods to supply villages with groceries, will need to look for other more expensive options for their needs.

Some are talking about coaxing Costco into a store here in the interior.  As Alaskans, we will definitely find alternatives.  Maybe a long road trip to Anchorage for some; for others, it could include lots of on-line shopping.  But definitely some thinking out of the box about suppliers is in order, which doesn’t seem to be out of the norm for Alaskans.

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Who says we are behind the trend?

August 20, 2015

If there is a new trend out there in the “Lower ’48”, we who live here joke that it will take about 3 to 5 years to catch on here. It is an often stated excuse for Alaskans for being behind the times.

Finally we have been vindicated. We are AHEAD of the times in one area: coffee! Check out this article in The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/18/biggest-coffee-snobs-america-alaska-not-seattle?CMP=share_btn_tw. I think my favorite line is “the most caffeinated place in the country.” Do you think we need/deserve it in Alaska?

ACRC's two ordering stations

Customers lined up inside (and out) waiting to order specialty coffee

Being a coffee lover myself (hopefully not a snob), I am thrilled. I have a collection in my wallet of a punch card for almost every coffee stand there is in Fairbanks. Don’t ask how many types of coffee beans are stored in my freezer (okay, I’ll ‘fess up: French Roast, Verano, Aria, Yrgacheffe..) Perhaps I should explain the word “coffee stand.” Along any well-trafficked road in Fairbanks there are small mobile coffee stands, with drive up windows on each side. And yes, if you are wondering, those windows do open and close whether the temperature is above 90 on a hot summer day, or below 40 below on a chilling ice foggy day. And even if you don’t believe it, there will be cars lined up, waiting for their cup of java. If your dog happens to accompany you in the car, they will offer them a doggie treat.

Then there are the local Starbucks housed inside both Fred Meyers shopping center, and both Safeways (probably so as not to discriminate shoppers loyal to either). And of course, at Barnes and Noble. So goes the corporate world. Ho hum.

Coffe stand with cars lined up at the window

Cars lined up for morning java

However,we also have great coffee, locally roasted at a couple of places–notably, my personal favorite, Alaska Coffee Roasting Company. They have evolved from a small storefront, then expanding to take over the next spot in the mall just down the hill from the University. And almost every time I stop there is a line for coffee–inside and outside at the drive through.

But, you don’t have to visit these outlets. Stop in at the Inn and we will offer you a cup of freshly brewed French Roast from Alaska Coffee Roasters. You don’t have to stop at any of the three coffee stands lined up along Geist Road and shell out $4. Ours is free.


Bragging Rights

February 3, 2015
fog on the road

Haze of ice fog on the Johansen on the way to town

Alaskans in general seem to enjoy their bragging rights. Consider the fact that when Alaska is superimposed over the “lower ’48” one end of the Aleutian Islands to the southern eastern coast it spans the entire United States. We’ll bypass those slogans that circulated in pipeline days regarding Texans and Oklahoma and suffice it to say that Alaska is BIG.

We do things in a big way up here. This last year was a prime example. If we are going have rain, we are going to do it big, have rain the entire summer,  and beat out all previous records. It seems God smiled on us after that and gave us a record warm winter–at least until last week.

If we must brag, it could be about anything. Vegetables? We grow them big, and in just three short months of summer. If it’s a dog sled race, we don’t mess around–it’s a thousand miles, through vast stretches of wilderness and bone-chilling temperatures. Then there are the unique benefits of living here; I mean, how many other states send a yearly check in the mail to every man, woman and child in the state, just for being a resident?

Today we have completed more than a week with an average temperature of 30 below zero. Somehow, the challenge of keeping the home fires burning, the cars running, and just surviving make us appreciate our home a little bit more when we have a slight warming, and suddenly people are not bundled up with barely a face exposed to the cold, but running into the grocery store with just a fleece jacket and sweats because “it’s warm outside.” My, what a difference 20 degrees makes at this time of year!