Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Alaska grocer adventures

Gustavus, Alaska. Photo by K. Boomer
Gustavus, Alaska
Credit: National Park Service/K. Boomer
Toshua Parker, who opened the store 10 years ago, is something of a legend around town: His great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln Parker, was the area’s first permanent homesteader back in 1917. 
After losing his Arizona-based commercial real estate business in the wake of the Great Recession, Parker, then 30, returned to the town he grew up in. 
At the time, the only way to get groceries was by private barge or plane. This made the local grocery store prohibitively expensive: A gallon of milk that sold for $5 in Juneau cost $12 by the time it arrived in Gustavus, largely due to the logistics of getting it there.
“There was just so much margin,” recalls Parker. “And I knew there had to be a way to do a better job.” 
Parker did some work around town, scrounged together $3k, and began taking a state-subsidized ferry to Juneau, where he bought Costco inventory to resell in Gustavus at a small markup. 
As the store grew, Parker and his father launched their own freight company, purchased the town’s gasoline station, and bought two of their own ships — a $300k “insurance policy” that gave Parker tighter control over the supply chain in case of an emergency. 
During COVID-19, these preemptive moves have become crucially important.
 You really gotta admire Mr. Parker's entrepreneurial spirit. 

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