Member Spotlight: Alaska Marine Coatings

Q&A With Mike Ritz of Alaska Marine Coatings

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 Marine Coatings was created in 2013 by husband and wife team Mike and Tiffany Ritz to bring quality, cost-effective coatings to Seward’s marine community. Their expertise covers anything a vessel needs to preserve: decks, hulls, tank coatings, insulation or flooring. They work with USCG/ABS inspected transportation vessels from companies like Crowley, Foss, and Lynden Transport. AK Marine Coatings prepares and coats giant work boats, tugs, barges, and commercial fishing vessels, but has also been known to take on smaller projects for local businesses such as repainting metal deck railings at Harbor 360 Hotel.

We recently sat down with Mike to learn more about the journey he and Tiffany have taken as small business owners in Seward. 

The power couple in charge of brightening up the boats of Seward: Mike and Tiffany Ritz. Photo Courtesy of AK Marine Coatings

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

To say that a company like ours encounters many challenges in Alaska’s harsh environment is an understatement. With projects in places like the Arctic, western Alaska, and the Aleutians, we have to be resourceful and strong in order to finish a job. I’m proud that we have managed to complete over 200 projects in less than perfect weather while being good stewards of the environment and operating in a clean, responsible manner.

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

We started our business without ever having to take a loan or assistance. AK Marine Coatings has been self-sufficient since inception and runs off of the income that we earn from each project.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

This past year we’ve been recognized for our work on TV, radio, and in magazines, which is an honor. Being awarded Seward Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Business of the Year was a major highlight. We pride ourselves on bringing jobs to Seward’s economy and it was amazing to be recognized for our contribution.

Neither wind, rain, sleet nor snow keeps Alaska Marine Coatings from finishing a job. Photo Courtesy of AK Marine Coatings

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

Our decision to travel to remote locations to perform the work we do is always a huge risk. Giving firm, fixed estimates for work that is weather dependent and has so many other variables meant that, at times, we barely broke even. It’s a huge expense flying people, materials, and equipment into some of the more remote Arctic locations to work. Sometimes we came out ahead, sometimes we didn’t. It is a process that we are learning to master.

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

Blaine Bardarson told Tiffany and I when we first started that we would never experience emotions like we would running our own business. Emotions run high when it’s your own money and your family’s future on the line. My best advice is don’t give up and prepare for the many valleys in your business’s path, but also remember that they make the peaks so much more enjoyable!

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

An executive with a coatings manufacturer brought me up in 2011 to coordinate the coatings on the 9 million dollar AMHS Tustumena. That was originally a two year contract, but we never left.

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

Up until I quit my job in 2014, I never intended to be in business for myself.

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

I appreciate the inclusive, supportive attitude of the businesses in our community. The scenery and the wildlife are amazing too. But mostly the people of Seward make it a great place to live and work.

M/V Christian shows off its bright blue paint job. Photo Courtesy of AK Marine Coatings

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

Seward is a very unique place with so many successful business people that it’s hard to pick just one. In no particular order, Joe and Tom Tougas, Blaine and Jean Bardarson, and Jim and Rhonda Hubbard have supported us immensely. We started only with the knowledge of our industry and a strong desire to make this work; these people and others helped us learn how to effectively run a business.

How do you spend your free time?

My wife and I love to fish, view wildlife, and spend time in the beautiful surroundings of Seward. We love any time we get to really embrace and enjoy the beautiful place in which we live. On the rare occasions we have free time, you’ll usually find us somewhere near Resurrection Bay or on our boat on the water.

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

When In Combat and the Bullets Start Flying, by Mike and Tiffany Ritz

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

We are well into our fourth year and are focusing on industry/safety training. Purchasing new equipment for our crew will make things more efficient and safe for our team and also improve the quality of our work for our customers. We are driven to positively influence Seward’s economy and only hire workers who live in the community. This pushes us to go after larger contracts so we can provide better wages for our employees, so they, in turn, can support Seward businesses.

Feature Image: The travelifts at the Seward Marine Industrial Center help Alaska Marine Coatings give Crowley’s fleet a face lift. Photo Courtesy of AK Marine Coatings

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For more information about Alaska Marine Coatings, call 907.422.7640. 

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

Member Spotlight: Exit Glacier Guides & Liquid Adventures

Q&A With Brendan Ryan & Ryan Fisher

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.

Co-owners Ryan Fisher and Brendan Ryan have been shaping the Kenai Peninsula’s adventure travel industry since 2004, when their company, Exit Glacier Guides, pioneered ice climbing tours in Seward. In 2013, they took over the helm at Liquid Adventures and have been growing Seward’s Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) scene ever since. These friends and business partners continue to push the boundaries of guided tourism by creating safe, exciting, and novel adventures for visitors to Seward and the Kenai Fjords National Park. Specific experiences include paddling around towering icebergs in Bear Glacier Lagoon, kayaking expeditions in remote Northwest Fjords, heli-accessible alpine hikes, and exploring deep crevasses on Exit Glacier. Exit Glacier Guides also provides convenient and economical transportation to Exit Glacier with a shuttle that leaves every hour from downtown Seward.

We recently sat down with Brendan to learn more about the journey he and Ryan have taken as small business owners in Seward. 

Co-owners Ryan Fisher (left) and Brendan Ryan (right) relax after a successful summer of guiding. Photo courtesy of Exit Glacier Guides.

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

Our goal is to provide unique, ground-breaking new tours with the best-trained guides in the area. We have a very extensive training program in place for both companies, and for Liquid Adventures we only hire guides with extensive prior guiding experience. We believe this provides our clients with an exemplary and safe guided experience.

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

We’re proud to be offering a new kayaking trip this year, the Aialik/Northwestern Explorer, that explores the fjords using a custom-built, brand new catamaran as a ride out. This vessel is not shared with any other companies, which means that our captain and guides can choose whether to paddle with our clients in Northwestern Fjords or Aialik Bay for the day, depending on factors like the weather, wildlife activity, and crowds.
 
We’re very excited to offer a trip that allows us the flexibility to provide our clients with the best paddling experience we can, specific to the day. Kenai Fjords is a very dynamic environment and we wanted to create an experience that can flex with the day’s conditions. Best of all, we’ve worked out a way to offer this trip at the same price as most other kayaking day trips to the fjords while offering a more private and exclusive experience.
 
How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

I’ve been in Seward for a little over 16 years. I originally planned to stay for a couple weeks while visiting a friend, but that quickly changed to permanent residency.

Kayakers glide across aquamarine waters of Northwestern Fjords. Photo courtesy of Liquid Adventures.

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

The two things I love most are the access to the outdoors and the tight-knit community. It’s nice to run into people I know everywhere I go, and I always know I can rely on people in the community to help out when needed. Seward and the surrounding areas are an adventurer’s haven for back-country skiing, ice-skating, camping and climbing expeditions. A lot of our “just-for-fun” exploration becomes a jumping-off-point for developing new and exciting trips for our guests.

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

Ryan and I spent our second spring surviving off of ramen and hot dogs for about two months while we scrimped to re-open for the upcoming season. Things were pretty lean back then, but we wanted to put all of our income back into the business itself. We learned that there are a lot of ways to make ramen!

Hanging glaciers dwarf kayakers in Northwestern Fjord. Photo Courtesy of Liquid Adventures

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

“This trip was life-changing.”

How do you spend your free time?

Snowboarding Mt. Alice and Tiehacker among other mountains around Seward is a favorite pastime. Running trails with my fiancée keeps me on my toes—she runs the Mount Marathon Race every year!

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

Scrimp and save. The first years will be hard, but don’t give up. The feeling of creating something from scratch is incredibly rewarding.

Feature Image: The crystal blue walls of Exit Glacier’s crevasses inspire novice and experienced climbers alike. Photo courtesy of Exit Glacier Guides.

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For more information, call Liquid Adventures at 907.224.9225 or Exit Glacier Guides at 907.224.5569.

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

 

Member Spotlight: Alaska Northern Outfitters

Q&A With Captain Sean Carlin of Alaska Northern Outfitters

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 Alaska Northern Outfitters, a world-class deep sea sportfishing charter targeting halibut, salmon, lingcod and rockfish out of Seward. Fishing charters explore the Kenai Fjords National Park and soak up the beauty of the giant glaciers and majestic wildlife with owner-operator, Captain Sean Carlin. The 50′ catamaran, Sea Quest, is the only sport vessel with an upper deck allowing companions to view wildlife without disturbing fishermen below.

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

Captain Sean (upper right) and crew reel in the catch of the day. Photo courtesy of Alaska Northern Outfitters.

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

We have a reputation for being family-friendly. We are the only vessel in the fleet to allow clients to share a rod with a partner for an extremely discounted price: our Companion/Shared Pole deal. This unique set-up allows spouses to come aboard to check out wildlife or help fish, effectively combining fishing and marine wildlife viewing. It is also great for younger children to accompany a parent at a reasonable cost and gives fishing enthusiasts the chance to take home more fish with two permits sharing one pole. Over the years we have built up a following of mostly Alaskan locals looking to fill the freezer for the year with the fact that we always stay out the latest and fish the hardest.

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

The Sea Quest was the first boat I ever worked on. Back then, I never thought I would be able to buy the business and build it up to what it is today. But at 23, I made my dream a reality.

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

Our dedication to client satisfaction and our Companion/Shared Pole deal that lets anglers bring a friend for only $149 sets us apart from others.

Everyone gets a piece of the action onboard the M/V Sea Quest. Photo courtesy of Alaska Northern Outfitters.

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

A major risk was custom-building the M/V Sea Quest in 2006. However, it has paid off as one of the most sought-after fishing platforms in Seward. Largest and newest goes a long way when looking for a comfortable fishing experience.

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

I’ve lived in Seward for 12 years. My passion for fishing and adventure brought me to Alaska when I was 18.

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

I love the small town community that surrounds the fishing industry. Everyone has a lot in common and seems to have migrated to this magical place for one reason, ADVENTURE!

David vs. Goliath. The little ones love reeling in big fish, too! Photo courtesy of Alaska Northern Outfitters.

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

Tom Tougas is a great man who has helped many small businesses in Seward get a start. He has played a major part in shaping the community into what it is today.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

“That was the best day of my life!” is definitely my favorite compliment.

How do you spend your free time?

Fishing, fishing and on the weekends…fishing!

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

The Pursuit of Elusive Creatures by Capt. Sean.

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

Taz Basin or Nuka Bay

Feature Image: Spacious decks offer fishing fun for the whole family! Photo Courtesy of Alaska Northern Outfitters.

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For more information about Alaska Northern Outfitters, click here or call 907.224.2665. 

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

 

Member Spotlight: The Painted Whale

Q&A With Justine Pechuzal of The Painted Whale

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.

The Painted Whale is a specialized art company operated by local artist and art educator Justine Pechuzal. Offerings include mural tours, art classes, and art events like Paint ‘N Sips. She is also the creator of The Statehood Mural, The Whale Mural, and The Friendship Across Water Mural in Seward. In addition, Justine has worked with rural Alaskan communities making collaborative school murals.

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

Justine Pechuzal’s mixed media artwork roves small galleries around town from The Cookery restaurant to Resurrect Art Coffee House. Photo courtesy of The Painted Whale.

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

In the summer of 2017, I started doing walking tours showcasing public artwork that makes Seward the “Mural Capital of Alaska”. Tours last 90 minutes and cover approximately 1.5 miles meandering between nearly a dozen murals in the historic downtown area.  Visitors learn about the cultural and historical themes presented in each mural relevant to life in Seward and Alaska (i.e. The Iditarod Trail & dog mushing, commercial fishing, the Mount Marathon Race, Kenai Fjords National Park).  Tours also educate guests about the creators of the murals, both established Alaskan artists and local Seward talent, as well as the creative and logistical process.  For visitors new to Seward it is a fun and engaging way to connect with what our community is all about.  

My favorite personal public art project was the whale mural across the street from the SeaLife Center. The image came from my kayaking experiences and inspired my company name.

Tiny artists access their inner creative during a Percent for Art mural project in Bethel, AK. Photo courtesy of The Painted Whale.

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

Art can often seem inaccessible, whether someone is looking at an abstract painting or drawing an animal. My goal is to help people connect with art through positive experiences in interpretation or creation.

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

I came to Seward in 2005 to work as a guide for Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking and have been a year-round resident since 2009 (when I got the Statehood Mural commission.)

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

I appreciate the diverse, yet tight-knit community and amazing natural environment of Seward. Coming from the dry desert of Arizona, it’s a joy to live by the sea with so many recreational opportunities. The size of our town makes it easy to plug into activities and make things happen.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

Last summer, a mural tour participant said the guided mural walk was her favorite Seward activity, although she had done a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park, fishing charter, and Exit Glacier visit. She said the tour was unique and personal.

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

I may be a little biased, but I greatly admire the path blazed by Jennifer Headtke, the Seward Mural Society founder and owner of The Ranting Raven. It is amazing that she, with the help of a dedicated group of volunteer artists, was able to take an idea and turn it into a long-term program. There are very few communities our size with the breadth and quality of our public art collection.

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

I never imagined myself as a business person, but have learned that if there aren’t art jobs out there, you have to make your own. Therefore, almost everything that I have done thus far in my business feels like a risk. It’s been a lot of worthwhile work, but it’s a little early in the game to know about the pay-off!

Locals’ creative spirit comes alive at the Seward Alehouse Paint ‘n’ Sip. Photo Courtesy of The Painted Whale.

 How do you spend your free time?

When not working on art, I love to play outdoors. Baking is also a fun hobby because its edible!

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

I find the mountains and ocean calming, or if the weather is bad, curling up with a coffee at Resurrect Art is a close second!

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

Wilderness Muse

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 love paddling the area near Fox Island and the Resurrection Peninsula. There are so many fantastic rock formations and the wildlife is bountiful.

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

My biggest creation to date is arriving at the end of the summer: a baby! Adding a tiny human to the art/work/life balance will take creativity. And giving tours with a big belly should be memorable.

Feature Image: The iridescent tiles of the Seward Public Library frame Nichole Feemster’s “The Irresistible Story” during the start of a mural walking tour. Photo courtesy of The Painted Whale.

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For more information about The Painted Whale or to book a mural walking tour, click here or call 907.521.0311.

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

Seward’s Place in Iditarod History

It’s a fair question: What’s a coastal town located approximately 1,000 miles from Nome have to do with the Iditarod?

Although Seward’s connection to Nome stretches back to the early days of the gold rush, our community also maintains a modern-day connection to the Iditarod race through some very special local residents. 

The Seward–Nome Route

The National Iditarod Historic Trail, first known as the Seward–Nome Route, actually pre-dates the famous serum run of 1925. The 2,300-mile trail system was originally developed to transport mail and supplies arriving by steamship in Seward’s ice-free port to communities in the Interior during the gold rush era. 

Nome’s port was ice-bound and inaccessible to steamships from November until roughly July each year. As a result, Seward was a critical link to the outside world for Alaska’s northern villages. From 1909 until the mid-1920s, dog sled teams were the primary method of transportation along the trail. 

Today, you can access two portions of the historic trail near Seward:

  • From the Iditarod monument marking Mile 0 of the trail, a paved coastal walk north parallels the shore of Resurrection Bay for nearly a mile to the boat harbor.
  • Nash Road intersects with the trail at mile 2.1, where visitors can hike four miles north to Bear Lake. From that point north, the trail appears and reappears periodically as links between public use cabins and current hiking trails.

The 1925 Serum Run

By 1925, when the diptheria epidemic struck Nome, the newly-constructed railroad carried supplies arriving in Seward to Nenana, located 420 miles north. From Nenana, dog sled teams transported supplies the remaining 674 miles to Nome. This portion of the journey typically took 25 days.

Responding with urgency to the growing epidemic, the first relay of dog teams carrying an initial supply of the life-saving serum covered that same distance in less than six days. The treacherous trip was completed in extreme sub-zero temperatures, with blizzard-like conditions and hurricane-force winds. 

After an additional shipment of serum arrived in Nenana via Seward, a second dog sled relay was dispatched. The second relay took approximately seven days, and included many of the same drivers, and also faced harsh conditions. 

This heroic story is a catalyst for one of the fiercest races still held today; a partnership between man and dog that covers some of the harshest terrain in Alaska: The Iditarod. Today, the race begins in Willow, just north of Anchorage. 

Modern Day Mushers

Happy dogs get a training workout at the Seavey’s homestead in Seward. Photo courtesy of Seavey’s Ididaride.

Seward’s legacy in “The Last Great Race” endures with two local families that will participate in the 2018 Iditarod—including the reigning champion!

In 2017, Mitch Seavey and his son, Dallas, brought home the gold and silver respectively in a finish that is almost becoming routine. A Seavey has won the Iditarod since 2012, with the other often coming in close second.

Mitch’s kennel is located on the outskirts of Seward, on the family homestead near Exit Glacier. Seavey’s Ididaride educates guests about an important mode of transportation in Alaska from some of the best mushers in the state. In the summers, they offer visitors rides around their property on wheeled sleds pulled by champion canines athletes.

Turning Heads Kennels keeps a portion of their team on Godwin Glacier during the summer for training and dog-sledding experiences for visitors. Photo: Kalani Woodlock Photography.

Four-time Iditarod finisher Travis Beals and his partner Sarah Stokey also offer visitors a chance to meet their racing dogs at Turning Heads Kennel. In addition to wheeled rides on their property, Turning Heads offers a helicopter-accessible dog sled tour of Godwin Glacier. There, a team of dogs spends the summer giving visitors snowy sled rides with stunning views overlooking Resurrection Bay.

Feature Image: Three-time Iditarod winner and Seward resident, Mitch Seavey. Photo: Seavey’s Iditarod Racing Team/Seavey’s Ididaride Tours

For more information about Seavey’s Ididaride call 907.224.8607.

For more information about Turning Heads Kennels call 907.362.4354. 

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

Member Spotlight: Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking

Q&A With John Page of Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking

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.

Since 1996, Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking has offered both novice and experienced paddlers guided kayaking tours in Resurrection Bay, around remote Fox Island (in conjunction with Kenai Fjords Boat Tours) and in Kenai Fjords National Park. Kayak tours often encompass calving glaciers, hiking through a temperate rainforest, exploring an underground WWII fort or a boat/kayak combo tour.

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

John Page’s passion for kayaking and exploring the outdoors has helped him grow Sunny Cove into a thriving tour company. Photo courtesy of Sunny Cove Kayaking

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

Since Sunny Cove’s origin, we strive to share our love for Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park by providing our clients with exceptional tours. Kayaking is the vehicle we use to help people explore and appreciate the amazing natural world that surrounds us. From a startup of two people, we have grown into a company of 16. Our managers, Kat Page and Stephanie Millane, have been with the company since 2006. Lead guides Matt Barnes and Danny Meuninck have more than seven years with Sunny Cove. Many of our guides return for multiple seasons. Our professional staff are committed to excellence and passionate about what they do.

We believe Resurrection Bay, Fox Island and Kenai Fjords National Park should be preserved for future generations. To help make that happen, Sunny Cove operates in an environmentally sustainable fashion and advocates for others to do the same. We have limited our footprint to locations best able to absorb our passing while still providing our guests with an authentic wilderness experience.

We practice Leave No Trace ethics and our guides share these practices with our guests and community. Our commitment to sustainable tourism has been recognized by Adventure Green Alaska as a Gold Level Certified Business.

Kayakers explore the rocky shores of Resurrection Bay. Photo courtesy of Sunny Cove

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

In 1996 I started Sunny Cove. It grew out of the desire to experience living on Fox Island and the need to be making a little money while there. I had guided kayaking for other companies in Prince Williams Sound and Kenai Fjords. I found I enjoyed sharing the place I loved with others. When Tom Tougas, then owner of Kenai Fjords Tours, built the Day Lodge on Fox Island I approached him about offering kayaking tours. He said yes and Sunny Cove was born. I would check my 3 pound/first generation cell phone to see if there were kayak guests at the Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge. Kayaking to work made for an interesting morning as I was often escorted by some of the locals (sea lions, otters and orcas). Two years later I started offering tours from Lowell Point and in Kenai Fjords National Park.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

“Your guides are the best!” We love it when we hear kayaking with Sunny Cove was the highlight of a person’s vacation. It means our guides again succeeded in providing a fun, informative and unique experience to our guests. Engaging each paddler and making their tour a once in a lifetime memory is our goal. Our guides love what they do and it shows.

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

I came North in 1983. An opportunity to test skis for Powder Magazine in the Ruth Glacier was the draw. I canceled my return flight three times as I was amazed by the wildness and beauty of Alaska. I moved up the following year and Alaska has been home since.

Alaska’s been a great playground for me to pursue my passions and challenge my abilities. While working on a book about Wrangell – St Elias National Park, I learned photography. I gained organizational and people skills while serving as executive director of several nonprofit companies. Covering the first four years of the World Extreme Skiing Competition in Valdez tested my skiing abilities. Alaska provided great opportunities to try new things, learn a bunch, fail a bit, and grow.

Guests have a chance to explore all the nooks and crannies of Fox Island, including the company’s namesake. Photo courtesy of Sunny Cove.

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

Seward’s proximity to mountains, ocean and recreational opportunities makes it easy to love. It’s always a thrill to share this area with our family, friends, and guests. The community here is incredible and we all pull together to make this unique town not only a “must see” destination for travelers but also a place to call home.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

I’m on Lowell Point Beach nearly every day. Walking along the shoreline, listening to the waves, watching the soaring eagles, and enjoying the marine wildlife is the perfect way to gather my thoughts and relax.

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

So many choices—so little time! Kayaking along Resurrection Bay, exploring the trails of Tonsina Point, camping at Caines Head and hiking to Ft. McGilvray or the Alpine Loop is a great weekend getaway. Encounters with the local otters, sea lions and eagles are just a bonus, not to mention the whales cruising the bay looking for dinner. Spending time exploring my own backyard never gets old.

Feature Image: Visitors are treated to breathtaking views from the water on a tour of Resurrection Bay. Photo Courtesy of Sunny Cove. 

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For more information about Sunny Cove Kayaking, click here or call 907.224.4426. 

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

Member Spotlight: Major Marine Tours

Q&A With Colby Lawrence of Major Marine Tours

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 locally owned Major Marine Tours.

Operating nine vessels between March and October, Major Marine Tours provides various opportunities for visitors to access Kenai Fjords National Park and learn about its abundant marine wildlife. From observing orcas on their new Orca Quest Cruise to indulging in fresh Alaska salmon on a dinner cruise under the gaze of curious puffins, Major Marine offers something for everyone.

We recently sat down with Colby Lawrence to learn more about the 18-year journey he has taken from captain to Vice President of Marine Operations at Major Marine Tours.

Captain Colby Lawrence is Vice President of Marine Operations at Major Marine Tours. 

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

Major Marine Tours is known for our great customer service and our close working relationship with the Kenai Fjords National Park. We have Park Rangers on our tours to narrate to guests about the amazing wildlife that we see in Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska.

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

We are the only company in Seward that offers a tour into Aialik Bay that visits both Holgate Glacier and Aialik Glacier in a single day. It has been a very popular cruise for us and allows guests to see two very different tidewater glaciers.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

Almost daily, we hear from our guests, “This was the best part of our entire Alaska vacation!” We think this speaks volumes about our company and the amazing place we get to show off.

Horned puffins cruise past a Major Marine tour boat. Photo Courtesy of Major Marine Tours.

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

Tom Tougas is a generous supporter of all things Seward. He is a great business person and has helped me tremendously.

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

Seward reminds me of the small town in Nebraska where I grew up. I enjoy knowing my neighbors and seeing all the familiar faces throughout the year. It’s so easy to access the outdoors from Seward that my wife and I also like to get in our RV and head out of town for the weekend. We take our dogs and 4-wheelers and go exploring.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

In the summer there is nothing like sitting on the deck at our house enjoying the long hours of daylight with my wife and three dogs. In the winter if I could be on a snow machine (snowmobile to you folks from the lower 48) on a daily basis I would be a happy man. Also, one of my favorite spots that Major Marine takes tourists to is Northwestern Fjords, which is a favorite kayaking spot for my wife and me.

Major Marine’s focus on sustainable tourism garnered them an award at the Alaska SeaLife Center’s gala this year. Photo Courtesy of Major Marine Tours.

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

Our company was just awarded the 2018 Alaska Ocean Leadership Award for Stewardship & Sustainability by the Alaska SeaLife Center. This is a true honor for our company as we take the local environment very seriously and strive to do everything we can to preserve such a wonderful place.

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

About eight years ago we decided as a company that we were going to start investing more in Seward for the long haul. Since then, we started running a new trip to Northwestern Fjord, we have installed 10 new tier-3 diesel engines in four of our vessels, and we purchased what is now the Harbor 360 Hotel. Currently, we are building a new 150-passenger catamaran for the 2018 season.

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

Seward is a growing market. We have seen a solid increase in passengers over the last several years. Growing a business like Major Marine Tours is not something someone could expect to do overnight. I would say start small, provide excellent customer service, and continue to invest in your company.

Feature Image: Visitors marvel at humpback whales feeding about the Spirit of Adventure. Photo Courtesy of Major Marine Tours.

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For more information about Major Marine Tours or to book a trip, click here or call 907.274.7300.

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

 

 

 

Member Spotlight: Miller’s Landing

photo of captain chance millers landing

Q&A With Chance Miller of Miller’s Landing

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 Miller’s Landing, a family-owned fishing and adventure tourism business on Lowell Point, 2.5 miles south of Seward. 

The Miller family homestead was established in 1950 by Grandma Penny and her six children. After the 1964 earthquake, the family started a campground and boat rental business to make ends meet. Although that business lasted only four years, it made such an impression on young Mike that he founded Miller’s Landing in 1982 to help visitors experience this special place.

Today, Mike and his two sons, Chance and Tom, offer guided and self-guided fishing, kayaking, and sight-seeing tours and run water taxis to remote beaches and lodges. The homestead also features a campground and cabins, and their staff offers booking services to help visitors coordinate other lodging options, tours, and services.  

We recently sat down with Chance Miller to learn more about the journey he and his family have taken as small business owners in Seward.

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

photo of millers landing porch
The porch is a popular gathering spot at the Landing. Photo courtesy Miller’s Landing. 

Miller’s Landing is really special for its unique trips and activities, but what probably sets us apart most is our location. We’re located on Lowell Point just south of Seward on our family homestead. All of our fishing charters and kayaking trips leave and return from here, so there’s really a different vibe compared to trips that leave from town.

We also rent skiffs and kayaks for people to take out on their own, so you see people coming and going from all types of experiences: spending a few days at a public use cabin, watching kids catch their first dolly off the beach, or coming back from a week-long kayaking expedition. A lot of people just relish the experience of being at the end of the road (or the start of it, depending on your perspective!).

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

Because we’re a family business, people often think that our parents just passed it on to us. That’s pretty far from the truth. I see our purchase of Miller’s Landing as an attempt at land preservation. A lot of homesteads fall apart, get subdivided and sold after the initial homesteaders pass on. I think my grandmother would be happy to see us holding the property in the family and sharing it with others. I’ve worked hard to continue to grow the business, to keep the land working, and also to facilitate my parents’ retirement—all while doing something I love.

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

In an attempt to maximize our boats’ usage on halibut closure days, we created the Best of Alaska tour. It combines two of our most popular requests, a 4-hour kayaking trip to a tidewater glacier and a 4-hour rockfish and salmon fishing expedition, along with sightseeing to Aialik or Northwestern Fjords. Particularly in Northwestern Fjord, there are so few companies out there that a small group can really experience the remoteness and grandeur of Alaska. It’s also comparable in price to the cost of a full-day fishing charter, so it’s been a huge hit.

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

photo of humpback whale feeding near boat at millers landing
A humpback whale feeds near the Fox Willie. Photo courtesy Miller’s Landing. 

We’ve been doing this for more than 35 years, so that’s hard to say! We get a lot of generous words from folks having a good time fishing or kayaking, and we’ve planned some memorable events. However, because we also offer water taxi service and travel all over Resurrection Bay, we often end up offering commercial marine assistance and doing rescues. So I guess it would have to be, “You saved my life!”

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

Building our new boat, the Fox Willie, was a pretty big risk that worked out so well that I want another one! Our new passenger inspected vessel had a big price tag, but it also offered more earning potential and exceeded our expectations during its inaugural season last year.

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

“Idiot’s Guide to Running the Family Business”

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

Don’t do it for the money. Even if you love what you do, there are sometimes parts that’ll feel like work. Those are the parts you need to focus on.

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

photo of captain dustin cleaning fish at miller's landing
Captain Dustin cleans fish following a Best of Alaska trip. Photo: @bethanybartonphoto

I get a little addicted to the fast-paced nature of running boats and guiding; I sometimes even enjoy the lack of sleep that comes with managing the business. One of my favorite things about the season is the camaraderie between the staff. We get a mix of people who would normally never associate with one another, and by the end of the season, they’re family. It’s an uplifting sense of community built around hard work and play.

How do you spend your free time?

In the winter, I hang out with my wife to make up for being gone all summer. I really enjoy cooking, so feeding people is a big part of how I spend my free time.

Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

I’d say Lowell Point, probably at the fish cleaning table, cutting my way through the day’s catch. I also enjoy sitting at my house or in the backyard where it’s quiet.

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 will always be enamored with Kayaker’s Cove; I met my wife there. I’d go there with the skiff and hang out with her when we first met. If I had to choose a boat trip, I’d probably head out West to McMullen for a night and then Taz Basin or Nuka Bay.

Feature Image: Captain Chance often has his hands full during fishing season. Photo courtesy Miller’s Landing. 

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For more information about Miller’s Landing or to book a trip, click here or call 907.331.4040

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

36 Hours in Seward: Treat Yourself or Someone Special

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Special events and deals await at Seward’s Second Saturday!

Winter transforms Seward from a bustling visitor hub to an oasis for Alaskans to play and recharge. To celebrate this special season, we’ve launched Seward Second Saturdays, a community-wide event scheduled for the weekends of Jan. 13, Feb. 10, Mar. 10, and Apr. 14. Enjoy quieter trails, fun activities and special discounts before the crowds return!

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, we’ve developed an itinerary for couples looking for a low-key, luxurious getaway or for individuals looking to melt away stress and rejuvenate their mind, body, and soul.

FRIDAY

Know Before You Go

Seward Highway is generally well maintained, but it’s always a good idea to check the travel conditions before you hit the road. Make sure your winter car emergency kit is well stocked before you leave home.

As you arrive in town, pick up a map of local businesses participating in Seward Second Saturdays. You’ll find them Harbor 360 Hotel, your lodging provider (see more options below). We highly encourage booking spa services ahead of your trip for the best availability. 

Evening – Dinner and a Movie

Kick-off your weekend escape with a meal that you won’t soon forget. Chef Kevin Lane sources local ingredients at The Cookery (209 5th Ave) to design creative dishes that capture the essence of Alaska. Fact: Foodies from around the state have been known to make a special trip to Seward just for dinner at the Cookery!

The Cookery, Seward Alaska, local food, Alaska produce
Whether it’s local seafood or Alaska grown produce, The Cookery’s inventive dishes never fail to impress. Photo courtesy of The Cookery.

Sip a glass of perfectly paired wine while waiting for your appetizer—the mushroom toast and brussels sprouts are local favorites—and take in local artwork. Dinner specials often highlight fresh seafood and other Alaskan delicacies. 

Between courses, check out incredible art by local artists Bethany Waggoner and Justine Pechuzal. Your visit to this popular local eatery wouldn’t be complete without trying Chef Kevin’s cream cheese ice cream. Guild the lily by adding bacon. Yes, to your ice cream. Trust us on this. 

Plan to eat dinner on the early side if you’re interested in checking out one of Seward’s best-kept secrets: The Skip & Marie Fletcher Winter Movie Series. This volunteer-run event features second-run movies for just $2. On Friday, Feb. 9, catch “The Red Turtle” at 6 pm or “Battlecreek” at 8 pm. 

SATURDAY

Morning – The Ultimate in Pampering

First, make like a local and head to Resurrect Art Coffee House to enjoy a lovingly-made espresso or rejuvenating tea. Soak up the light streaming in through the historic windows—the building, formerly a church, celebrated its 100th birthday last year—and browse jewelry, ceramics, and other art made by Seward residents. 

Next, it’s time to treat yourself. The Retreat, Seward’s only full-service spa, offers indulgences from manicures to full-body massages. A relaxing Tulasara facial ($85, 60 minutes) will leave your skin hydrated and refreshed. Many of the facials and massages include complimentary use of the sauna to flush toxins and a shower to energize you before heading out in into the world. 

Been spending too much time on the computer lately, or have a nagging injury? You might opt for a signature hot stone massage at Three Peaks Massage, a tranquil oasis located downtown ($60/hr). Soft-spoken owner Sarah Hermann focuses on a whole-body approach to wellness that will melt away stress.

Afternoon – Shake & Shop

Resurrection Bay, Seward, Alaska
The shores of Resurrection Bay offer a relaxing retreat to rejuvenate your mind and soul. Photo: @behendrixson

Whether you’re looking for a lighter lunch or something warm and comforting, you’ll find it at Woody’s Thai Restaurant. Named after the iconic SeaLife Center’s playful sea lion, Woody’s offers fresh, nourishing dishes of Southeast Asia. Start with some crisp summer rolls and share some local favorites like the Tom Yum Soup or Penang curry.

From Woody’s, take a leisurely walk along the paved waterfront path. A short stroll downtown offers stunning views of the fjords and peek-a-boo vistas of Godwin Glacier across Resurrection Bay. Here, sea lions and seals spy on visitors near the shore and you’ll often find an otter munching on shellfish from the rocky bottom of the bay.

Located two blocks from the waterfront in downtown, 5th Avenue Fitness (321 5th Ave.) offers a free day pass for visitors on Second Saturdays. Their belly dancing class (1:30 pm) offers guests of all ages a chance to unwind and let loose to the sounds of the East.

Next, head to historic Fourth Avenue to browse the unique collection of shops in our downtown district. Step inside Seward’s newest retail store, Brown and Hawkins Mercantile which offers a selection of handcrafted goods and jewelry made in Alaska. Browse through items such as Tlingit Botanicals health and beauty products or Happy AK headbands in a setting reminiscent of the early 1900s.

Across the street is Seward’s oldest family-owned business, Urbach’s Clothier, which offers unique clothing lines and shoes for men, women, and children. Look for Second Saturday deals inside! 

A few doors to the north, drop into A Flyin’ Skein to browse a variety of colorful textiles and try your hand at a “make-and-take” cross stitch project for $5.  

Need an extra Valentine’s Day gift or two? You’ll find the perfect treat at Frontier Trading Post. Owner Kerry Romig sources delicious chocolates from around the world, all of which are 10% off on Second Saturday. You’ll also find practical and indulgent gifts like JACARA therapeutic skin care, made right here in Seward!

Evening – Get Artsy

Local artist Justine Pechuzal will help you paint your own canvas masterpiece at the Seward Alehouse on Saturday night. 

No need to hop in the car; you’re still downtown. Grab a bite to eat at one of Seward’s legendary family restaurants: Thorn’s Showcase Lounge (try the fried halibut) or Apollo Restaurant (known for hand-tossed pizzas and generous salads). 

Join local artist and art educator Justine Pechuzal as she hosts a “hot date with paint” at the Seward Alehouse from 6-8 pm. For $35, you’ll receive everything you need—include Justine’s helpful guidance—to create a 9×12″ canvas painting. These paint and sip nights have become popular for good reason, so reserve your seat before they’re all gone! Purchase tickets here

Not quite ready to call it a night? Shortly after paint night wraps up, the Alehouse will be transformed into a dance party with DJ GRE. 

In the mood for live music? Just down the block, the Blue Voodoo Band will be rockin’ vintage-y blues at the Yukon Bar. The live show starts at 9 pm. No cover. 

SUNDAY

Morning – Breakfast with Ms. Gene

Start off your day in Hotel Seward’s intimate Victorian lounge by ordering a signature Eggs Benedict with homemade hollandaise sauce at Ms. Gene’s Place (221 5th Ave). With mimosa in hand, you’ll be transported back to Seward’s early beginnings while dining on Chef Aaron’s newly updated menu.

On your way out of town, take a scenic drive down Nash Road to the other side of Resurrection Bay. The far side of Seward Marine Industrial Center provides access to a pebbled shoreline known as Fourth of July Beach. Dwarfed by the magnificent Kenai Mountains, this local secret is a great place to lose yourself in reflection before heading back to hustle and bustle of the city.

LODGING

Enjoy views of the small boat harbor while soaking in the hot tub or swimming pool at Harbor 360 Hotel. Winter rates start at $89/night, including free breakfast. Mention Seward Second Saturdays when booking to receive 20% off your stay.  Wake up to specialty espresso drinks for only $2.

Kids of all ages will enjoy taking in the wildlife and history display at Hotel Seward. Located in the historic downtown district, you’ll be steps from many shops, the Alaska SeaLife Center, and the Seward Community Library & Museum. During Second Saturday weekends, Hotel Seward offers a 20% discount on rooms accompanied by 15% off of dinner at Ms. Gene’s Place. An open house with complimentary snacks and drinks will be held in the hotel lobby from 11 am – 8 pm. One lucky open house visitor will win a stay in a deluxe room valid through April.

Watch eagles nesting in the lagoon from your room in the north addition of the Breeze Inn. Classic rooms are a good fit for budget-conscious travelers starting at $69/night. Use code “SSS” when booking to receive 10% off your stay.

Looking for peace and quiet this weekend?  Serenity by the Sea on scenic Lowell Point offers charming private cabins perfect for couples on a romantic getaway.

Rates listed are based on double-occupancy and are subject to change. Contact the hotel directly to make your reservation.

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Have a question about Seward Second Saturdays or other winter activities? Contact the Seward Chamber of Commerce at 907.224.8051. 

Visiting Seward with your family? Check out our 36 Hours in Seward: Winter Fun For Families.

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Feature Image: Resurrection Bay painted with pastels soothes even the busiest of minds. Photo: @toneloke79