On Saturday, Kodiak’s largest rural community will hold the grand opening of the Nuniaq Food Market. The grand opening marks the restoration of the town store, which closed a year ago following a string of break-ins and vandalism.
“There is a need for a store here in the community,” said Old Harbor tribal council vice president Melissa Berns. “The cost of importing goods from Kodiak and Outside is really expensive for locals, and not everybody has the ability to do that.”
The store will be owned and operated by the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor but will be open to anyone in Old Harbor. While a small convenience store already operates in Old Harbor, tribal officials said the goal is to bring more — and healthier — options to town.
“We have our hoophouse to work with also to incorporate with that,” said tribal council president Stella Krumrey. “That’s what we’re working toward is to have some healthier options in the store.”
In rural Alaska, healthy options don’t come easy. High transportation costs and the time needed to ship food to Old Harbor means fresh produce usually comes from a home garden, not from the store.
The Alaska Marine Highway System has pledged regular summer stops in Old Harbor, but the extended absence of the ferry Tustumena means that pledge has gone unfulfilled.
Without the Tustumena, the Old Harbor tribe had to leap logistical hurdles to open the store on time. Instead of riding the ferry, supplies rode a landing craft earmarked for the town’s ongoing runway expansion project. “We were able to piggyback on some of the barge shipments from Homer,” Berns said. “We hope to be able to do that next year as well.”
While new, the store has a long history in Old Harbor. The store building was erected in the 1970s and operated for almost 20 years as Harold’s Food Store, Berns said. Terry Cratty, owner of Servant Air and an Old Harbor native, bought the store in the 1990s and operated it until it was purchased by the tribe.
“We’ve always had a store in that exact building,” Berns said.
The building is showing its age, and renovations were planned before the grand opening. While those have been postponed, the delay hasn’t postponed the opening or the tribe’s long-term plans for the store.
An existing secondhand store will continue to operate in the building, and there are plans for a coffee shop and washeteria to serve Old Harbor’s fishermen.
The tribe plans to keep the store open year-round, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with weekend hours to be determined.
Krumrey said it took a team effort to bring the store back to life, and anyone who visits Old Harbor should stop by. “Come and check it out,” she said.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com.