Alaskan grocer and employees trek 14 hours by boat to bring food to local store

Gustavus, ALASKA—The Coronavirus has brought new challenges for many rural and remote cities where an arduous supply chain already exists. In Gustavus, Alaska, the city’s only grocer and his team of employees have been making a 14-hour boat trip to bring food to their small town, which is only reachable by boat or plane.

The situation playing out at Toshua Parker’s Icy Strait Wholesale or Toshco as its known by locals, has made several national publications in recent weeks.

For the past several months, Parker and his staff have been making the boat trip almost every week to the Costco in Juneau, the state’s capital 50 miles away, to restock on essential food and supplies to stock their shelves. Icy Strait Wholesale is the only grocery store in Gustavus, which is home to 450 residents.

Parker previously received shipments from Costco via Alaska’s ferry system. Last winter, Alaska legislators cut ferry service to Gustavus. The pandemic and recent severe storms that damaged the city’s dock have brought the ferry service to a complete halt.

Parker told The Washington Post, about two years ago as a backup plan he decided to buy a 96-foot landing craft to haul goods between Juneau and Gustavus. The barge has come in handy now that the city is cut off from ferry service.

“It’s like Christmas when the load gets here,” Parker told The Hustle. “Everyone is waiting for it. Word gets out, and they all seem to know when it’s coming.”

There have also been periodic updates on the store’s Facebook page.

“Well the weather here on the beach is a bit nicer than Lynn Canal but the Claim Jumper just turned the corner toward Gustavus with freight, fresh groceries and lumber,” Icy Strait Wholesale wrote in an April 10 post. “And I hear a rumor there are a few hundred dozen eggs on board just in time for Easter!”

 

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