Q&A With Dennis and Susan Swiderski from Orca Island Cabins
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.
How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?
We moved from Anchorage to Seward with our three young sons in 1996. Seward’s charm as small coastal town with picturesque landscapes and seascapes captured our hearts. The many recreational and business opportunities were appealing as well.
What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?
Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.
We are particularly proud of the personalized and family-oriented service we provide our guests. Several of our family members serve in various capacities from boat captain to resident artist to overnight presence on the island. We are a family business which takes pride in providing personalized attention to each guest – a service that our guests appreciate.
What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?
Construction of comfortable, unique accommodations in a remote wilderness setting provided us many unique experiences. Our guests are surprised to learn: (a) it took 18 years to acquire the 3 separate acres (including the island); (b) the logistical difficulties in building each cabin; (c) the overall layout of the cabins was not predetermined, but simply evolved over time. Each cabin site and boardwalk access had to be closely evaluated since each was so challenging to build; (d) how difficult the design and construction was of the 80 ft. footbridge and (e) how we came up with such a unique lodging concept in such a unique setting.
Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.
Both the design and construction of the 80′ footbridge that connects the island with the mainland acreage constituted a great risk. Since the island could only support 3 cabins, we needed to access the mainland property in order to erect additional cabins and thereby maximize the use of our property. Now, we marvel at our ability to walk back and forth between the island and mainland property with ease. We are grateful for the possibilities that the bridge has afforded to expand our retreat.
What is the best compliment your business has ever received?
At the conclusion of their stay, many of our guests appreciate us sharing our island and island accommodations with them and not building just a cabin for our exclusive use and enjoyment.
What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?
Prepare to develop over the long term with patience and planning. Also, it’s important to keep one’s expenses at a sufficiently low level.
What do you like most about living and working in Seward?
We love Seward because of its coastal setting, friendly residents and the considerable community support we have received over the years.
Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.
Dot Bardarson is a prominent local artist, community activist/volunteer and friend that we greatly admire.
How do you spend your free time?
During the off-season we travel a lot, which is a high priority for us. Susan spends much of her free time painting on commission and for shows as well as creating artwork for the island’s art gallery. Dennis spends much of his time planning for the next season.
Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?
Fifth Avenue Fitness, a place to reduce weight and stress.