Member Spotlight: RAWsome Photography

Q&A With Oksana Skolnaja of RAWsome Photography

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

Oksana Skolnaja was born in Lithuana with a camera in her hand. As a long-time resident of Seward, she has made a name for herself fileting halibut quickly and perfectly while deckhanding with Crackerjack Fishing Charters and has recently turned her attention back to her photo art with her business RAWsome Photography. Whether she is capturing lifestyle, family events, wildlife, travel and glamorous portraiture, her lively and fun style shines through each photo. She strives to capture beauty and special moments and create memories with clients who favor a less traditional approach.

We recently sat down with Oksana Skolnaja to learn more about the journey she has taken as a small business owner in Seward. 

Photographer Oksana Skolnaja balances being a full-time mom with her new business. Photo Courtesy of RAWsome Photography

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

My photography is unique in my own expression, the way I see things through the lens. I’ve been told I make people look happy and beautiful and I am good at creating memories.

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

I just recently finished photo visuals for The Retreat Salon and Day Spa’s new website. It’s going to be great! I am grateful and happy I was able to collaborate with Crista and her amazing team. Stay tuned for the updated website! My marine wildlife and bird canvas prints will also be available for sale at the salon through the month of June.

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

I’ve been taking photographs ever since I can remember. This year I decided to become a business owner and continue capturing people in their essence.

Shots like this one capture Oksana’s fun and energetic perspective behind the lens. Photo Courtesy of RAWsome Photography

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

There have been a few, but one of my favorites was being told that I captured some precious moments that would last a lifetime.

Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.

I’ve recently made business decisions that paid off financially and more importantly created new partnerships that are growing my business. Networking is a must if you’re a business owner!

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

I would recommend a good client management system to keep track of contracts, emails, proposals, and invoices among other things. As a busy mom, I am definitely trying to work more efficiently!

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

The first time I came to Seward was during my college years back in 2005; I worked at the Breeze Inn as a waitress for the summer. This lively and beautiful town fascinated me, so I had to come back! I moved to Seward in 2009 and began spending summers in Seward and winters in Girdwood. Four years ago, I moved full-time to Seward.

Focusing on the smaller wildlife in Resurrection Bay, Oksana finds the beauty in things that others often miss. Photo Courtesy of RAWsome Photography

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

I love the arts and Resurrection Bay. Summer brings so much life and interesting people. During the winter, I love hiking and skiing, doing yoga and relaxing.

Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.

I admire quite a few small business owners who took a leap of faith and grew their business in this community; there are too many to name.

How do you spend your free time?

I’m a full-time mom, which takes a lot of time, but I also manage to get in a lot of hiking, running, biking, fishing and relaxing with my family.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

I love hiking Lost Lake Trail! And now that Yoga Space has opened I will be attending more yoga classes!

Oksana captures Alaska’s iconic bald eagle fishing the waters near Seward. Photo: RAWsome Photography

If your life was a book, what would the title be?

The Rawsome Adventures of Oksana Skolnaja

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

I would go on an overnight camping trip to Caine’s Head or out to Orca Island for a more private getaway. I would also go to Harding Ice Field, which is one of my favorite spots to go on long hikes along with Lost Lake.

Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?

I would like to focus more on capturing families and couples who are visiting Seward who would like me to photograph their adventures and special trip of a lifetime moments. Then they wouldn’t have to worry about taking quality photographs of their trip; they could just focus on enjoying their time in this amazing place!

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Feature Image: Oksana’s keen eye captures seals hauled out on a waterfall. Photo: RAWsome Photography.

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For more information about RAWsome Photography click here or call 907.903.7793. 

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

Member Spotlight: Bardy’s Trail Rides

Q&A With Breanna Dodson of Bardy’s Trail Rides

It’s often said that people make the place and we couldn’t agree more. Our spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

Bardy’s Trail Rides offers diverse 2-hour horseback rides twice a day from May through September to locals and visitors alike. Seward local, Breanna Dodson, takes riders through the rain forest of Seward where moose and bear roam and shows guests part of old town Seward that was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1964. Then the horses carry guests out to the grasslands at the beach of Resurrection Bay where the wild flowers meet the ocean. Often riders will find themselves trotting beneath massive bald eagles and encounter diverse birding opportunities. The horses meander through moss-laden forests and take riders across rivers where salmon swim between the horse’s legs on their way to spawning grounds. Breanna has spent the last eight years developing this unique tour to show visitors a different side of Seward.

We recently sat down with Breanna to learn more about the journey she has taken as a small business owner in Seward. 

Seward local, Breanna Dodson, takes locals on a ride of a lifetime through temperate rainforests, beaches and rivers. Photo by Ron Niebrugge.

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

We pride ourselves on excellent customer service. We keep out tours at 7 people or less so everyone is getting the attention or service needed.

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

I was born and raised in Seward and started this business with my dad when I was 14 years old. It was intended to use it to pay my way through college, which I did. I always thought I would sell it when I graduated, but I enjoy the business and meeting new people. Every year I keep saying “Oh, just one more year.” I think I have been saying that for 8 years now!

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

We were ranked top 10 trail ride by USAToday and we were on a TV series called Equatrekking which aired on PBS.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

I hear quite often that our ride was the best trail they have ever done from guests who ride on every vacation. We also hear how well-maintained and cared-for our horses are. That means a lot to me because our horses are part of the family.

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

Every customer is important. Treat them like a person; without them you have no business.

If your life was a book, what would the title be?

Off the Beaten Path

Bardy’s Trail Rides gives visitors a glimpse into the history of Seward. Photo by Ron Niebrugge.

How do you spend your free time?

There is no free time when you own horses.

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

I love the small town atmosphere and how most in the tourism industry work together to make Seward a fun-filled stop for our guests.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

On my horse’s back, riding through the woods.

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

My favorite place to explore and experience is camping on Porcupine Island on Kenai Lake.

Feature Image: Bardy’s Trail Rides gives visitors and locals a unique perspective on the epic views of Resurrection Bay. Photo by Ron Niebrugge.

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For more information about Bardy’s Trail Rides or to book a tour, click here or call 907.362-7863.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

Member Spotlight: Alaska Dream Charters

Q&A With Levi and Mallory of Alaska Dream Charters

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

Alaska Dream Charters provides a personal and individualized fishing experience. Specializing in six-passenger charters, Levi Rangel and Mallory Rice offer a smaller boat and fewer patrons on each trip allow for one-on-one time with experienced captains and deckhands. Chasing everything from big Halibut, Salmon and Rock Fish, their captains and deckhands have a flair for teaching and are willing to provide as little or as much assistance as desired in each fishing adventure.

We recently sat down with Levi and Mallory to learn more about the journey they have taken as a small business owners in Seward.

Owners Mallory Rice and Levi Rangel share their love of the outdoors with their guests. Photo Courtesy of Alaska Dream Charters.

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

My husband, Levi Rangel and I have lived in Seward for 2 years with kiddo Camille. We are in our second year of business in Seward. Operating a business like this has been in our sights for years. With over 20 years of fishing and hunting experience, Levi has fished all over North America from Canada to the U.S and Mexico. He has done it all, but Alaska is where big fish live! That is why we have decided to pursue this business and this dream in Seward, Alaska.

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

Alaska Dream Charters not only prides itself in specializing in six-pack charters but we also specialize in customized trips. We allow customers to buy out our boats for the day for a private trip or create special packages that can include everything from sightseeing, hunting drops and of course FISHING!

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

We pride ourselves on customer service. Guests have a personal interaction from the moment they call us all the way to being personally escorted to the boat. We take complimentary photos during and after the trips so that the customers can focus on catching fish and not the camera.

Catching monsters on board F/V Hell on Reels. Photo Courtesy of Alaska Dream Charters.

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

It’s not a 9-5 job and requires dedication and sacrifice, but is worth it in the end.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

We have been told that it is nice to have a company that not only produces fish but also professionalism.

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

Seward is a community of like-minded individuals who seem to share a love for this state that is unmatched. We very much enjoy Seward’s quaintness, hard working values and people.

Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.

Jessie and Samantha Osborn are two individuals that we admire. They are a couple that is in business together and they continue to help us navigate the road as both business owners and a married couple.

Mallory and Levi have now acquired Camelot Cottages to make their guests’ fishing adventures even more comfortable. Photo Courtesy of Alaska Dream Charters.

How do you spend your free time?

We hunt and fish of course!

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

We enjoy the Breeze Restaurant. It’s easy going, good food, and enjoyable atmosphere.

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

We would probably take the boat into Aialik to the glacier, camp overnight, fish and bear hunt along the way.

Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?

We have purchased Camelot Cottages in Seward; while it is a separate business we are creating both stay and play packages joined with Alaska Dream Charters to include lodging and fishing.

Feature Image: Everyone loves salmon! Photo Courtesy of Alaska Dream Charters.

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For more information about Alaska Dream Charters click here or call 907.422.7070. For more information about Camelot Cottages, click here or call 907.362.7843.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

Member Spotlight: 60 Degrees Adventure Charters

Q&A With Laura Schneider of 60 Degrees Adventure Charters

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play. We’re proud to present one of the few multi-day charter options in Seward, 60 Degrees Adventure Charters.

Laura Schneider and Kenneth Cardwell create customized trips to explore the waterways of Seward and the Kenai Fjords National Parks for families or groups of friends. Whether it’s fishing, wildlife viewing, kayaking or other water sports, beachcombing or hiking, these two adventurers have done it all and enjoy sharing their passion for exploring and sharing the treasures of the Resurrection Bay and the fjords with their guests.

We recently sat down with Laura to learn more about the journey she and Kenneth have taken as small business owners in Seward.

Captains Laura and Kenneth regale guests with stories from years of working in Alaska waters. Photo Courtesy of 60 Degrees Adventure Charters.

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

What makes 60 Degrees Adventure Charters special is our flexibility. We help guests craft a custom itinerary that’s perfect for them. It may be four days of halibut fishing, a focus on whale watching, becoming an expert kayaker, or balancing time on the water with evening campfires on the beach and hikes to a glacier, the only limitation is our guests’ imaginations! We love creating multi-day excursions that allow visitors the best chance to truly experience Alaska’s wonders from the water.

Cooking and putting together bright, fresh recipes that plate well and taste delicious is another of our passions. We showcase local ingredients whenever possible, including beef and pork raised in Alaska and freshly-caught fish. Veggies that grow well in Alaska are complemented with other items from the market. Sometimes, I even make goat cheese that I share with guests.

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

Our boat, the M/V Caroline offers transportation, lodging, meals and outdoor excursions all wrapped up in one inclusive experience. 60 Degree Adventure Charter’s extended tours focus on our guests interests, and reveal some of the most beautiful views anywhere in the world. We serve as your captains, tour guides, chefs and hosts and will regale you with tales from Alaska, delicious home-cooked meals, and expert suggestions on wildlife viewing, fishing, kayaking, hiking, beachcombing, and more.

Get up close and personal with a tidewater glacier on your customized adventure. Photo Courtesy of 60 Degrees Adventure Charters.

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and earned a degree in Information Technology from the US Naval Academy. After a tour in Japan, I started commercial fishing in Alaska and was hooked. Kenneth was also a commercial fisherman for seven seasons. Years of commercial fishing has now led us to owning a charter company in our new home where we can show visitors all of the wildlife, mountains, glaciers and ocean that we love.

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

We chose to move to Seward one year ago because it is one of our favorite towns in Alaska. I first visited when bringing friends’ boats from Prince William sound after the fishing season. I always walked away from my visits wishing I had been able to spend more time here.

Seward is also a thriving tourism market, but there were few multi-day charter companies. So we saw an opportunity for growth and started 60 Degrees Adventure Charter to meet that need. This also allowed Kenneth and I to spend our whole year working together. Not only did we build something that allowed us to be out on the water we love so much, we’re also able to share that passion with others.

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

Getting to know people over the winter and the beautiful view every time you drive into town! The views from Seward from mountains to see are incredible!

Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.

We have been overwhelmed by how supportive the charter community has been to us. Everyone has helped with tips and referrals and genuine goodwill. We could not be happier to be part of this great group of people.

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

We love hiking up to Lost Lake with our dog Elri.

Feature Image: M/V Caroline offers guests a luxurious experience exploring Kenai Fjords National Park. Photo Courtesy of 60 Degrees Adventure Charters.

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For more information about 60 Degrees Adventure Charters or to book a trip, click here or call 907.521.8196.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

New Vessel Joins Major Marine Fleet

Major Marine Tours Welcomes a New Vessel to its Seward Fleet

SEWARD, Alaska—Major Marine Tours is kicking off the 2018 summer season with a new addition to its fleet of vessels! The Kenai Fjords 360 is a custom-built, high-speed catamaran is named for its 360-degree wraparound top deck. This design offers passengers unparalleled wildlife and scenic viewing opportunities. 

The state-of-the-art catamaran arrived in Seward from La Connor, Wash., last week, and will go into service for Major Marine Tours beginning mid-May.

“This custom-built catamaran was designed so our passengers could have a unique and memorable experience viewing glaciers, wildlife and scenery,” said Tom Tougas, owner of Major Marine Tours.

“As a locally-owned company that has been investing in Alaska’s tourism industry for more than two decades, we are certainly thrilled to introduce this new vessel to our fleet. We’ll be able to take more Alaskans and visitors out to experience and appreciate the stunning beauty of Kenai Fjords National Park.”

Designed with passenger comfort and the environment in mind

In addition to the wheelhouse being located on the second deck to allow for top-deck viewing, the Kenai Fjords 360 is also the fastest catamaran of Major Marine Tours’ fleet. The new vessel has the ability to cruise up to 30 knots (about 35 miles per hour).

Environmental sustainability is a top priority for Major Marine Tours. The Kenai Fjords 360 is powered by EPA Tier III, fuel-efficient and low-emission Caterpillar C32 engines, minimizing its environmental footprint.

The 150-person capacity catamaran was designed with passenger comfort as another priority. Features include snack and beverage bars on the first and second decks, a large galley for dining, and three restrooms on board.

The vessel’s new home

The Kenai Fjords 360 will board directly behind the Seward Harbor 360 Hotel, a Major Marine Tours accommodation. Both are conveniently located less than a block from the Alaska Railroad Depot.

The Kenai Fjords 360 is the ninth vessel in the Major Marine Tours fleet and will support Major Marine Tours in its six-hour Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise. The cruise visits an actively calving tidewater glacier, provides opportunities for whale and wildlife viewing and features Major Marine Tours’ Alaska salmon and prime rib buffet.

About Major Marine Tours

Major Marine Tours offers world-class wildlife and glacier cruises from Seward and Whittier, Alaska. Major Marine Tours is a locally-owned, family company celebrating over 25 years of sharing the beauty of Alaska with its guests. Seward cruises explore the tidewater glaciers and abundant wildlife of Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park, and the Whittier cruises explore the dense concentration of glaciers and waterfalls found in the calm, protected waters of Prince William Sound. Most cruises feature National Park Ranger narration and an Alaska salmon and prime rib buffet, freshly-prepared on board and served during the cruise. For more information, visit majormarine.com

Member Spotlight: A Flyin’ Skein

Q&A With Cindy Clark of A Flyin’ Skein

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.
 
A Flyin’ Skein is a yarn store and more. Not only does owner Cindy Clark supply Seward with a variety of fibers, but she also has art supplies, jewerly-making supplies, and offers classes for a variety of crafts. She is always expanding what she does. She caters to creative clientele who have exciting new projects and want to experience fiber with new techniques and color blending.
 
We recently sat down with Cindy to learn more about the journey she has taken as a small business owner in Seward.

 

Owner Cindy Clark makes her yarn store a haven for creative endeavors. Photo Courtesy of A Flyin’ Skein.

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

A Flyin’ Skein is known for customer service. We will help in any way with anything we can, even if it isn’t yarn related. In addition to helping people in person, I’ve done Facetime sessions with customers who have a problem with their knitting and don’t know how to fix it. I’ve also even shown customers how their keyless systems work on their new cars, others how to navigate their new iphones or ipads and fixed problems for them. I’ve given the term “full-service yarn store” a whole new meaning!

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

In my other life I was an Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technician. I never imagined being known as ‘The Yarn Lady”. I thought I’d have a quilt or bookstore. But here I am, more than ten years later and it is my passion. I love being able to empower people. Sometimes people feel as if they are powerless over lots of stuff in their life; learning to make something and control how it happens is very satisfying. It also gives people the opportunity to believe in themselves. If you find out that you can do something you thought was impossible, other doors will open because of the confidence you gained. Some people I’ve taught can’t imagine how they survived without it; knitting is not only a creative outlet but a great strategy for stress relief as well.

Sheep Shades Yarn is hand-dyed, custom-colored yarn available in Seward. Photo Courtesy of A Flyin’ Skein.

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

Last summer we introduced Sheep Shades Yarn – our very own colors of yarn, hand-dyed in Seward Alaska. It has been a big hit and a very enlightening experience; the logistics of keeping up with the high demand has been a learning experience. Most people don’t realize that yarn and quilt stores are vacation destinations for visitors or at least a significant factor to vacation planning. Stores that produce something that can only be acquired at that one store has a magnetic pull for those looking for something unique.
 

Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.

We now have classes that are based on personal schedules. On the webpage is a tab for Classes, you can see everything we do, fill out the form for what you want to learn, along with the days and times that are good for you and we create a class for you. You can even request a craft or class that isn’t listed and if it is possible, we’ll create it. We also started DIY or Make n’ Take kits. You can either sit in the store and make the craft or buy the kit to take home and make later.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received? 

“The only reason I come to Seward is to go the yarn store.”

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

Go to the Small Business Development Center, they have the answers to all the questions you could possibly have and they can help with the finances to get you up and going.
 
A yarn shop is a refuge for people looking to relieve stress. Photo Courtesy of A Flyin’ Skein.

Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.

Cindy Capra is one of the most creative people I know and she inspires me to expand my skills and knowledge. She is also my go-to person when I have an idea and she helps me work out the details. She has always been, and continues to be, my biggest supporter and advocate.

 

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

My husband came up on a fishing trip and when he got home announced that he wanted to move to Alaska. I responded with “I’ll be ready at two.” We came up two months later. He had been to Homer but not Seward. When we got to the Homer turnoff, we decided to see what Seward had to offer and it felt like home. We moved here the next spring.

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

I just love Seward, the views, the people, and even the weather. Best of all, there are no bugs or slithery things. I’m from Florida, the land of cockroaches and snakes.

How do you spend your free time?

In my free time I’m knitting, crocheting, preparing classes, updating the webpage and searching Pinterest; sometimes I’ll be really irresponsible and read a book. My mind is always “on”. I have a hard time not thinking about how to make the store experience better.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

Curled up in my chair, binge watching an old TV series with a project, hoping to not drop any stitches while laughing or crying at whatever I am watching.

If your life was a book, what would the title be?

Aside from yarn, A Flyin’ Skein has everything you might need for any craft project. Photo Courtesy of A Flyin’ Skein.
Never Saw That Coming!!!

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

I am not much of an adventurer. I’m more of a homebody. If I have a free weekend it is usually spent being a little lazy, at least in the morning, but by the afternoon, I’m either working on a new project or finishing a Work-In-Progress (WIP) that has been hanging around for too long. Don’t ever ask a crafter how many WIPs they have; it ranks right up there with never ask a woman how old she is.?

Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?

I’m always on the lookout for new classes or techniques to introduce and a couple of new Sheep Shade colors are being examined.

Feature Image: Shades of summer brighten up this little corner of Seward all year round! Photo Courtesy of A Flyin’ Skein. 

***For more information about A Flyin’ Skein click here, call 907.224.KNIT (5648) or head down to 223 4th Avenue in Seward.


Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

Member Spotlight: Ukanuzit

Q&A With Shelly Shank and Melissa Houselog of Ukanuzit

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

In 2014, Michelle Blalock, Melissa Houselog, Brad Entwisle and Shelly Shank opened a local thrift store, Ukanuzit. They are supported by items donated by the community, which they then sell for reasonable prices. While they are not a non-profit, they do give back to the community in the form of scholarships, prizes and donated items for charities and events.

We recently sat down with Shelly and Melissa to learn more about the journey all four owners have taken to run a small business in Seward.
These four have made Seward a hot spot for second-hand shopping. L to R: Melissa Houselog, Shelly Shank, Michelle Blalock, Brad Entwisle. Photo Courtesy of Ukanuzit

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

Shelly: We all love this community. We have a very giving and caring community and we are proud to be part of it.
 
Melissa: Ukanuzit has been fulfilling and a true labor of love. Our customers are the best!

 

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

S: Last year, blogger Trent Jonas rated us the #1 thrift store in the State of Alaska. Since the Seward community is so great about donating items to us, we have a ton of inventory to turn over and are making a name for ourselves as a “funky boutique” with a lot to offer.

Family fun means dressing up at Ukanuzit! Photo Courtesy of Ukanuzit.

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

S: Our prices are lower than the thrift stores in Anchorage. We actually have a customer base that travels from Anchorage to shop with us.

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

S: We are proud of the relationships that we have gained. Our store seems to be a great meeting place for some.
 
M: Knowing that we have helped keep tons of stuff out of the landfill and keeping prices low so we can offer treasures to people in Seward is truly a heartwarming and rewarding experience. It really is a dream come true.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…Ukanuzit brings happiness to all! Photo Courtesy of Ukanuzit.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

S: People tell us we are the best thrift store they have ever been to.
 
Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.
 
S: Jumping into our business was our biggest risk and it has paid off with a lot of hard work and support.

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

S: The biggest one would be to “Make sure there is a need for the business”.
 
 Feature Image: Kids find rainy day fun dressing up at the local thrift store. Photo Courtesy of Ukanuzit.

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For more information about Ukanuzit click here, call 907.224-5268, or head down to 339 5th Avenue in Seward.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

 

Member Spotlight: Alaska Surf Guides

Q&A With Scott Reierson of Alaska Surf Guides

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

Owner and guide, Scott Reierson, offers remote Surfing & Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) adventures to people looking to go deeper into Alaska and experience some truly hidden gems. Alaska Surf Guides is based out of Seward, Alaska and uses helicopter & bush plane to access back country beaches for half-day and multi-day adventures. Their Heli-Surf Trip combines the thrilling experience of helicopter flightseeing while offering unmatched access to remote surf breaks. Surf/sightseeing in a fixed wing bush plane not only allows visitors a taste of this unique and necessary form of Alaska transportation, but it allows them to scour the coastline in pursuit of rarely surfed Alaska waves.

We recently sat down with Scott to learn more about the journey he has taken as a small business owner in Seward.

Seward local, Scott Reierson, takes surfers on an adventure of a lifetime to breaks on the rugged Alaskan coast. Photo Courtesy of Alaska Surf Guides.

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

We are the only Seward company flying visitors to consistent surf breaks around the area. I consistently study weather patterns, currents, swells and new surf spots that are only accessible by air. In an age where the “surf safari” is dying out, it’s taking more and more extreme measures to get to undiscovered surf breaks. With over 6500 miles of coastline, Alaska is becoming the last frontier for the epic surf trip. Our helicopter and bush plane trips are a new way of discovering and riding waves without the crowds and competition you would find at well-known surf spots.

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

Our Cabin Retreat Overnight Trip is an incredible opportunity for adventurous surfers to escape the crowds and experience the surreal scenery of Alaska’s remote coastlines and captivating wildlife. With up to a half hour of helicopter flight-seeing, a home-cooked meal, and a night in a hand-built cabin located right on Alaska’s gulf coast, this is trip is truly an diamond in the rough. Waking up next to the crashing ocean and being the first and only one out on breaking waves is a true Alaskan experience you won’t find anywhere else. ​

Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.

I include all gear and either a surfboard or paddleboard in the price of my trips. This means I had to buy a whole fleet of wetsuits of all different sizes for anyone who might want to book a trip. It was a big risk and expense, but it makes Alaska Surf Guides stand out from other operations. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to squeeze in a surf trip on their Alaska vacation, since not a lot of people are coming here just for surfing.

Surfing the fjords near Seward. Photo Courtesy of Alaska Surf Guides.

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

We offer trips geared towards all different skill levels. As surfers know, wave size changes on a daily basis. So, we are transparent with our clients about the level of experience recommended for any particular condition. We plan each trip according to the wave direction, wind, tide and surf break, so we can tell clients exactly what to expect. After we land at the remote beach, we discuss the associated hazards and nuances of that particular surfing break (riptide, bottom profile, wildlife etc.). This way, anyone with even a little surfing experience will know what kinds of conditions to expect and have the confidence to surf new terrain.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

“It’s not just a surf trip, it’s an adventure!”

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

Build a business around your passion!

No AK surf session would be complete without a trip in a bush plane! Photo Courtesy of Alaska Surf Guides.

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

My family has been long-time Seward residents. My parents met while working the fish processing line at Seward Fish in the 80’s. They had me 27 years ago; I am so happy to call Seward my home!

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

The supportive community helps make starting and running a business so much easier! There are so many business men and women in Seward that have helped me and that I admire, that I can’t do them all justice here.

How do you spend your free time?

One of the best things about owning a business that you love is that work doesn’t feel like work. So whether it’s surfing or doing something else for the business, I usually spend all my time “working”!

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

Montague Island

Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?

Alaska Surf Guides will have an office at Seward’s Adventure Station & Lodge, located at 334 4th Ave. The Station offers visitors a vibrant downtown location where they can meet like-minded adventurers and explore Seward’s many activities, tours, and experiences.

Feature Image: Sun, snow and solo waves; a perfect day for a surf adventure. Photo Courtesy of Alaska Surf Guides.

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For more information about Alaska Surf Guides click here or call 907.519.0407.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

Member Spotlight: Turning Heads Kennel

Q&A With Sarah Stokey of Turning Heads Kennel

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play. This week we’re proud to profile Turning Heads Kennel, a tour operator and Iditarod training facility located on the road to Exit Glacier.

Sarah Stokey and Travis Beals, mushers and owners of Turning Heads Kennel, train an elite team of canine athletes. Not only do they race the 1,000 mile Iditarod, they also introduce Seward visitors to their “dog-centric” lifestyle with tours that offer a glimpse into the sled dog experience. Offering an interactive dog sled ride at their kennel, Travis and Sarah regale guests with stories from the Iditarod, training tips and a passion for their dogs that is apparent in everything they do. They also offer snow sledding tours; they fly guests to Godwin Glacier for a true mushing experience on snow all summer long.

We recently sat down with Sarah to learn more about the journey she and Travis have taken as small business owners in Seward.

Mushers Sarah Stokey and Travis Beals cuddle some superstar athletes. Photo by Kalani Woodlock Photography

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

We offer two different dog sled tours during the summer both of which are great introductions to dog mushing. Our glacier dog sledding tour allows visitors to mush on snow, even in the summer, and includes a 15 minute helicopter ride. It’s a breath-taking tour, even for local Sewardites — it’s incredible how you can be enjoying summer  one minute and then be whisked away via helicopter to a winter wonderland. We offer this tour in conjunction with our helicopter business, Seward Helicopter Tours. We also offer a one-of-a-kind wheeled dog sled ride and kennel tour out of our home. What’s unique about this experience is that the trail we mush on is a series of interconnected loops. We make each tour a training exercise for our dogs and take our guests behind the scenes and show them firsthand how we train our lead dogs. It’s exciting for our guests and our dogs because the dogs are actively learning, not just running a set course. This keeps it fun for our dogs and really educates our guests on what it takes to train a dog team!

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

Travis and I never intended to own our own business. We found ourselves both unexpectedly unemployed and house-sitting at what is now our home. Just when we feared we wouldn’t be able to put dog food on the table (so to speak) visitors kept pulling into our yard asking to go dog sledding. Taking a chance, we wrote a business plan and started doing cart tours in 2012. We both wore many hats and had several side jobs, but we stuck it out and were determined to make it work. The following year, we took over Seward Helicopter Tours on a complete whim. The owner was going through a divorce and offered to sell us the business because we shared similar values and we had been kind to him the previous summer. Never underestimate the value of kindness!

Visitors get a glimpse into the lives of sled dogs training for the Iditarod on a cart ride through old growth forest. Photo Courtesy of Turning Heads Kennel

Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.

Taking over Seward Helicopters was a big risk; at the time it wasn’t a profitable business. It’s taken a few years and and a lot of hard work, but we’ve managed to build Seward into a premiere destination for glacier dog sledding and scenic flights. In turn, our success has allowed other businesses to grow.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

We’ve been blessed with many reviews that say our tours are the most memorable part of our guests’ trip to Alaska. We’ve also had guests return to Alaska specifically to do our excursions again, which always makes us smile. I think perhaps the thing that sticks with me most, however, are the Christmas cards we receive each year from people who have done our tour. Many of our clients are visiting Alaska for the first time and have no experience dog sledding and some clients have never seen snow. It’s really heartwarming knowing that our excursion was so special that it was  “Christmas Card Worthy”!

We are also passionate about what we do and have had our hard work rewarded through improved race records, awards for “best dog care,” and great reviews about our tours from our many visitors. We are proud of all of this recognition.

No doubt about it, kennel employees have a great job! Photo Courtesy of Turning Heads Kennel

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

Travis grew up in Seward and I moved here in 2010. I always wanted to live in Alaska because it is the center of dog mushing in the US.

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

Everyone here is always willing to lend a hand if you ask. I love how selfless our community is. Living nestled between the mountains and the sea is magical. There’s always something to do outside and always a new nook to explore.

How do you spend your free time?

Mushing dogs isn’t just a business for us, it’s a lifestyle. We spend a lot of time hanging out in our dog yard with our pack. We enjoy exploring trails with our dogs, boating, and flying drones.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

There are so many wonderful places in Seward that it’s hard to pick just one. Hiking Tonsina is always a good way to unwind — especially if accompanied by one or two furry friends.

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

Always be kind.

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

Mushing to Exit Glacier in the winter is a special treat. We’ve had to move our base north to train for the Iditarod over the last few winters due to weather. This has made us unable to do that trip in a number of years. If the weather allowed, that would be our first pick.

Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?

Travis recently finished 9th in the Iditarod! This was a career best for him and we are really happy with that performance. We are still on cloud nine! We also just expanded our trail system for our kennel tour and dog sled ride through a lease with the Kenai Peninsula Borough. We’ve been able to open up more trails through some old growth forest which is exciting.

Feature Image: Sled dogs and mushers live on Godwin Glacier during the summers to delight guests with a true sled dog experience. Photo Courtesy of Turning Heads Kennel

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For more information about Turning Heads Kennel click here or call 907.362.4354. For more information about Seward Helicopters click here or call 907.202.8390.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051. 

Member Spotlight: The Mindful Marmot

Q&A With Rachel Gordon of The Mindful Marmot

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

This week features The Mindful Marmot, a yoga and hiking adventure company that brings visitors and locals to outdoor yoga day trips around Seward and multi-day retreats in Kayaker’s Cove. Owner Rachel Gordon offers destination yoga classes: guided hiking trips up to Mt. Marathon bowl or to Tonsina beach with a yoga class in each spectacular locale. She has also teamed up with Marathon Helicopters to take guests on scenic flights for yoga classes secluded in the mountains. For those who could do without yoga, she offers guided hikes around Seward as well.

We recently sat down with Rachel to learn more about the journey she has taken as a small business owner in Seward. 

Kayaker’s Cove is a yogi’s peaceful oasis. Photo Kalani Woodlock Photography

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

I am very proud to be offering three yoga retreats at Kayaker’s Cove (May 18-20. July 13-15, and August 10-12). I teach clients two yoga classes a day, cook them delicious food, and guide them hiking while they bask in the glory of Kayaker’s Cove. It’s a magical place to relax and delve a little deeper in your yoga practice while tuning out from the daily hustle and bustle. We’ve also added massage therapist Sarah Herman from Three Peaks Massage and Wellness to the itinerary to help dissolve any lingering stress. Did I mention there’s a wood-fired sauna out there?!

What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

The business concept itself is pretty unique, especially in Seward. No one else in town is offering any kind of outdoor yoga classes, let alone ones combined with hiking and helicopters. I’m looking forward to fostering the growing interest in yoga that’s blooming in Seward.

Zen out in the Alaska wilderness with The Mindful Marmot. Photo by Janessa Anderson

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

I’m bubbling over with excitement because this is my first season of my business venture! But that might not be that surprising, as I tell pretty much anyone who will listen.

What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

Ask all the questions, from everyone, all the time. The more information you can get from people who have already started a business or who might be interested in something your business would offer, you’re all the better for knowing.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

Probably the greatest compliment is the positive feedback and encouragement I have received from so many people in the community. I definitely have first year jitters but everyone’s positive response has been an amazing boost and quite a compliment!

The Mindful Marmot combines yoga, kayaking and hiking at their retreats in Kayaker’s Cove. Photo: Rachel Gordon

Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.

I would have to say Kristi Larson. She is just an inspiration. Kristi is dedicated to her job and helping people get into their new homes. She is an absolute light at all times and never has a negative word or sour face about anything. Not to mention that gal is always doing something outside. I can only hope to have one ounce of her smiles and positivity.

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

This is my fourth year in Seward. I first came to Seward to work a summer season to get a break from Southern California, where I was living at the time. I got bit by the Seward bug and now I don’t want to leave.

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

Gosh, Seward just combines two of the things I love the most: the mountains and ocean. I get to hike a mountain and go surfing in the same day! Not to mention the incredible community here full of wonderful supportive people. I can’t ask for more than that!

How do you spend your free time?

I try to spend as much time outside as I can. I love being on the water whether it’s paddle boarding or surfing when we’re lucky enough to have some waves. That or bopping around on any of the trails around Seward.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

I tend to be very social and active so if I need some real unwinding I’ll probably be hitting crossword puzzles pretty hard in my cabin.

If your life was a book, what would the title be?

Great Expectations…Well, that one’s already taken but I might borrow it.

There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

I’ve actually never been out to Northwestern. I would love to go check that out!

Feature Image: Rachel Gordon gives new meaning to adventurous yoga. Photo Courtesy of Mountain Men of Alaska.

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For more information about The Mindful Marmot, click here or call 907.224.3635

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051.