A new pit-stop for First City caffeine-seekers: Local Grounds, K-Town's newest drive-thru coffee stand

A patron waits for his order on Oct. 10 at Local Grounds, which is located next to Simply Bella on North Tongass Highway. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

The First City isn't lacking for coffee, but now caffeine-seekers can order their favorite beverage from Local Grounds, a drive-through coffee stand next to the new location of Simply Bella at the former Shoreline branch of Wells Fargo.

Local Grounds, which opened Oct. 1, operates out of a bright blue-and-yellow shack under the shade of the former bank's pneumatic tube port where customers would drive through to do their banking. Situated mere yards from the doors of the retail store Simply Bella, the small structure has two drive-through windows for customers to order a variety of food and beverages.

The menu includes favorites such as lattes, frappuccinos and fruit smoothies, but also more exotic items like a charcoal or turmeric coffee, a Red Bull smoothie or a slice of avocado toast to-go.

Longtime friends and Ketchikan residents Kayla Howe and Kiana Winter are experienced when it comes to serving coffee – Howe taught Winter how to make specialty coffee, and Winter has a long history in the food and serving industry.

Winter, whose mother worked in the food industry for “as long as she can remember,” had always known that she wanted to do something with food service.

“I just knew I wanted to do something in the food industry. I just love working with people,” Winter said. “Really, (I) just like serving them the best that I can, and it's not just about a good coffee, it's the laughing and the talking and just making it memorable.”

The idea for a Ketchikan coffee stand came about during the two years that Winter was residing in Metlakatla. At the time, Winter had been operating a small coffee business called “Keta Bay,” using the stand that is now refurbished for Local Grounds.

“I kind of fell into it over there (in Metlakatla),” Winter told the Daily News recently while sitting on the small porch of the Local Grounds shack. “And then there wasn't any room for growth.”

Winter recalled contacting Howe when she returned to live in Ketchikan and pitching the idea of a new coffee stand. Howe agreed, and the process of opening began with high hopes – the women wanted to be opened in June or July, soon after Winter moved back to town.

“From there we just made phone calls, took different steps, jumped through a million different hoops and somehow it all fell together perfectly,” Winter said.

The first step toward opening Local Grounds was shipping the old “Keta Bay” structure from Metlakatla to Ketchikan, with the help of Samson Tug and Barge. The building was transported to its new location.

Once the former “Keta Bay” coffee stand had arrived, work had to be done to situate it. Zoning and construction permits had to be obtained before work began to settle the stand into its new spot.

The stand also received a complete makeover when it arrived in Ketchikan.

The original “Keta Bay” stand, Winter explained, was different in many ways from Local Grounds. When it was “Keta Bay,” for example, the stand didn't have roof shingles and was painted loud shades of pink and blue.

Winter recalled that Howe wanted to paint the trim of Local Grounds bright baby blue, and the interior walls yellow. Winter agreed, joking that Howe had a vision.

Even with the work of rebranding the coffee stand and other tasks – and pushing back the opening date from the summer months to September and finally October – Winter and Howe agree that operating out of such a small space was the best choice for Local Grounds, as opposed to settling into a traditional sit-down cafe location.

“Having a cafe, like, there is way more operations, there's way more people involved, there's way more employees,” Winter explained, estimating that, aside from Howe and herself, there was a staff of around seven employees, many of whom are part-time.

“It's still a lot of work, but it's a lot more simple,” said Winter, who noted that both she and Howe have two young children under the age of seven.

After being open for two weeks, Local Grounds experienced a busy time, serving enough coffee that Howe recalled sometimes having to go to the store twice a day to buy more supplies to keep serving customers.

Winter estimates that many customers are commuting from their north-end homes to work in the downtown area, or are running back home for a quick lunch break. Winter also noted that high-school-aged kids stop by during lunch breaks or after school, when Local Grounds holds a “frappy hour” from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., offering a second free frappuccino with the purchase of one.

Local Grounds is open from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday though Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.