• Tara and Len Kain open shop that could lower grocery costs for area consumers
By Naomi Klouda
Local food sources in Anchor Point sprout in dozens of small enterprises, from purple potatoes to fresh farm eggs, but until recently there wasn’t a one-stop shop for accessing a variety.
Tara and Len Kain celebrated the grand opening Friday of their Anchor Point Natural Food Store, holding a plan to solve the access problem. The store, on the main road just down from the post office, is located next to the Fly Box in an old-fashioned country storefront building lined in a porch.
“I’m trying to get as many local products as possible, which has been really important to me. I think this will really help the town,” Kain said. She counted 11 different partnerships she has so far formed to bring local products. McNeil Canyon Foods supplies organic chicken and beef.
Local growers Matt and Mary Appelhanz supply a variety of purple, red and white potatoes, and her fish comes from Homer fishermen. Kenai Premier BBQ makes a sauce in Kasilof and local jams by Alaska Berries also stock the shelves.
A problem that keeps grocery costs high on the Lower Kenai Peninsula is that 40-60 cents per pound of transportation costs are added. Kain’s plan is to save consumers those costs by finding as many local sources of food as possible. Eggs, for example, are generally shipped from Washington farms. Buying from a nearby neighbor naturally brings those costs down and it helps the local economy. Meat is another high-ticket item. But, if it comes from Homer or Delta Junction, there goes a lot of transportation fees.
Another advantage is that Anchor Point people won’t be as dependent on driving to Homer stores 20 miles away or Soldotna 60 miles away. Gas is now $4.20 a gallon – adding to the grocery bill for every trip they make. McNeil Canyon Meats is able to offer Anchor Point people the same prices as Homer pays as they place orders through the Natural Foods store.
“Ninilchik people also seem interested, and we had people from Homer as well, at our opening on Friday,” she said.
Kain noticed the grocery gap on her first trip to Alaska in the summer of 2009. Her own interest in natural foods began 12 years ago while expecting daughter, Jody.
“We really wanted to buy local fish, and found out the only place we could get it was on the Homer Spit,” she said.
Her family liked this area of the state, and planned a move here in 2011. The Kains have two children, Jack, 7 and Jody, 12. They lived in northern California, near Sacramento and for the past 12 years worked at a different career path from retail. They write travel guides for dog owners. Their advice, at dogfriendly.com, is a leading provider of nationwide city guides and travel guides for dog owners.
“We are dedicated to finding places that people and dogs can enjoy together,” the website states.
Now, with that website running on its own, updated along the way, the Kains turned their attention to establishing the natural foods store. The store is self-financed. Len Kains ran the numbers to see if it would be feasible to open such a store in a small town. Given a variety of ways to make it work, the numbers proved a few solid possibilities.
The Kains buy bulk bags of flour, beans and grains, and also act as an ordering house for people to place their own orders. Case lots, such as organic peaches, get a 10 percent discount. Direct order from McNeil and Misty Mountain Farms from the Delta Junction make pork, buffalo, chicken and beef available.
Though she’s lived in Alaska two years, Kains has located a number of out-of-the-way vendors whose names are becoming increasingly well-known. She purchases jams from Alaska Berries of Soldotna made by Brian Olson who swears off all corn syrup and preservatives. He grows his own fruit that goes into the jams. From Shady Dog Farm’s Tiffany Sherman, she’s purchasing farm fresh eggs and custom hand-painted ceramics. Sourdough Fresh Express in Homer is another partner, that supplies whole grain breads. As early as May, she should be able to purchase fresh greens grown in local high tunnels.
“When I opened the store, it was especially important to me that we don’t sell anything with corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. I also didn’t want processed foods, but we do have some cereals and a few items,” she said.
Even the M&M’s are healthy at this store. “There’s no dyes,” she said. “It’s not a perfect world, but we can do what we can, when we can.”
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