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