Q&A With Young Jin Park of Seward Subway and Harbor Street Creamery
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.
Young Jin Park owns and operates Seward Subway® and the Harbor Street Creamery. Subway not only offers sandwiches, salads, wraps & side dishes, but they also sell Subway To Go box lunches for Alaska adventures. Harbor Street Creamery serves up Cascade Glacier ice cream of all flavors, milkshakes and more. As the owner of the only franchise restaurant in Seward, Mr. Park is happy to serve the community healthy sandwiches and sweet treats all year round. He is also a generous supporter of Seward events such as the Mount Marathon Race, the Halibut Derby and the Silver Salmon Derby.
We recently sat down with Mr. Park to learn more about the journey he has taken as a small business owner in Seward.
How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?
The biggest shipping company in Korea used to own and operate the coal terminal in Seward. I came here in 1999 as the general manager. When they tried to transfer me back to Korea, I had fallen in love with the town and decided to stay. In 2004, the opportunity to take over Subway presented itself. There was only one condition. The previous owner said that it had to be open year-round and that I would have to be in Seward year-round. I agreed and have now been running Subway for almost 15 years!
What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?
Because Subway is the only franchise in Seward, I feel a responsibility to support the community that supports my business. I always try to think of my customers and my employees first. Subway stays open all year-round mostly because I want my employees to have work all year round. This is why many of my employees have worked with me for 5 to 10 years. I’m proud that many of my employees and patrons are like family to me.
What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?
Working within the framework of a franchise can sometimes be difficult in a small town. There is a balance that needs to be struck between doing what is best for the community and working together with Subway’s larger corporation. Luckily, Subway Alaska’s team is great to work with and understands many of the unique circumstances that arise with doing business in rural Alaska.
Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.
Seward has given me so much that I try to contribute to the community as much as I can. I am a strong supporter of youth sports such as The Tsunami Swim Club and Seward Subway contributes a $5000 scholarship to the Seward High School Scholarship program. Seward Subway has always sponsored town events, but this year we were proud to be the exclusive sponsor of the 4th of July Fireworks Display for the Mount Marathon Race. It’s important to me that I give back and support my community.
What is the best compliment your business has ever received?
I am sometimes told by Subway that we make our sandwiches too big with too many veggies on them, but I don’t care! My customers love that our sandwiches are big and loaded with vegetables.
At the Creamery, a family from Oregon—a state known for its dairies and creameries—told me that they had never expected such good ice cream in Alaska. We use Cascade ice creams from Oregon and I’m proud to give my customers big scoops!
Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.
Staying open in the winter is always a risk. It’s a challenge to find quality employees and make sure they have enough hours to make a good living, especially in the winter. I always push them to continue to improve themselves and push them to find better jobs if they want to, so I’m always looking for new workers. Because of this, I do have employees that are like family and who are always welcome to come back to work for me, even long after they leave.
What do you like most about living and working in Seward?
I came from South Korea, which is a small country with a lot of people and a very hectic lifestyle. I like the peace and quiet of Seward and the people are very nice. I’m really happy here and love Seward.
Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.
I appreciate all the business owners who contribute to the town that helps them make their money.
How do you spend your free time?
In the summer I work about 18 hour day, so I only really have free time in the winter. Then, I like to spend time with my family at home.
Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?
This might sound strange, but I really like the schools. I like the calm and quiet of the schools and I also like being a part of everything that’s going on there. My wife and I also really like walking on the waterfront.
Feature Image: Residents and guests take in the firework show sponsored by Seward Subway on the Fourth of July. Photo: Joel Krahn.