The Out to Sea Expedition Company is only in its first season of operation, but has already made changes to its business plan in response to the changing business landscape caused by COVID-19.
Instead of focusing on small-group wildlife tours this summer – as was originally planned by owners Delaney Murphy and Eric Lunde — the business expanded into retail with the opening of a store specializing in selling and renting gear for outdoor activities.
The store is opening this Wednesday at 124 Thomas St.
The new inventory is still being stocked, according to Murphy and Lunde, but ranges from camp stoves and portable coffee grinders to stand-up paddleboards and the accompanying sails.
After being established at the end of last summer, the company was gearing up for its first season of being operational in Ketchikan. Complications from COVID-19 drove Lunde and Murphy to make plans for a retail space, in order to maintain a presence during a summer that will be different for tourism outlets.
Out to Sea Expeditions had been taking bookings and scheduling tours all the way through March of this year, Murphy explained. She said those bookings stopped when bigger cruise organizations started to cancel sailings due to the pandemic.
Murphy said that the company has had to "pivot their business" in order to adapt to what has been predicted to be a slower season for tourism.
"We figured, you know, since everyone's going to be sticking close to home and kind of doing more 'staycations' and other kind of summer adventures, we would try to find products that would be good for locals and try to provide things that people can (use to) have a good summer here," Murphy said.
Lunde explained that before plans began to change to adapt to COVID-19, the business mainly focused on small group wildlife tours through Alaska Zodiac Tours, although a retail store was not out of the question even prior to COVID-19 arriving in Alaska.
"So we needed a place to dress our guests up in raingear and whatnot, so (the Thomas Street location) was going to be our hospitality suite and now it's still going to be our hospitality suite, but we're going to have our outdoor gear shop in there, as well," Lunde explained.
"The idea is that a lot of folks won't be able to come visit this summer, so you can send a little bit of Alaska to your friends and family down south," Murphy said of what the new retail environment offers.
With changing their business model in mind, the Thomas Street location fit what was needed for the new plan.
"It's a really cool space . ... We wanted something downtown, but we also really liked the vibe of that area," Murphy commented, noting that she appreciated the area's historic roots in the fishing industry.
Out to Sea Expeditions will continue to offer small group tours, but Murphy and Lunde do not expect the tours to be as in-demand this summer as they previously expected.
Out to Sea Expeditions' retail store is located at 124 Thomas St., and will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.