Early talks toward the potential of building a new grocery store in Saxman are underway.
An agenda item for Monday’s meeting of the Saxman City Council indicates that Three Bears Alaska, a Wasilla-based chain of family owned grocery stores in Alaska and Montana, “has made an offer to the Saxman City Council to lease the Seaport to build a grocery store.”
The agenda includes the potential for an executive session of the council to discuss the topic.
A Three Bears Alaska representative on Thursday said that, from the company’s side, “we’re kind of in the very early days on our end.”
Steve Mierop, Three Bears Alaska’s vice president and chief financial officer, said there had been some preliminary meetings with folks from the City of Saxman, Cape Fox Corp. and the Organized Village of Saxman.
After reiterating that things are still very much in the early days, Mierop said that “we’re excited about the opportunity.”
He recognized the loss of the Tatsuda’s IGA grocery store due to damage from a rockslide in early 2020.
The scale of a potential Three Bears Alaska store would be larger than the Tatsuda’s store, with a “lot broader spectrum of product,” Mierop said. “It should be good.”
The potential for a grocery in Saxman was referenced in a Friday press release from the City of Saxman, which described an “historic” meeting involving all members of the Saxman City Council, the Organized Village of Saxman and board members of Cape Fox Corp.
The entities plan to work together toward establishing a community development corporation with the goal of developing and revitalizing the Saxman community, according to the announcement.
"Never before in the history of Saxman has the City of Saxman, Cape Fox Corporation and the Organized Village of Saxman met in one room to discuss the future of Saxman,” Joe Williams Jr, the president of the federally recognized Organized Village of Saxman tribe, said in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago I wanted this to happen and every year since. It's good to have patience, because here we are, finally happening!"
Saxman City Administrator Lori Richmond said in the announcement that one of the objectives is the building of a new grocery store.
If that goes as planned, the grocery store “will not only serve the south end of the greater Ketchikan Gateway Borough, which includes Saxman, but will have a differentiation from every other store in the borough,” Richmond said in the statement. “The economic impact would be felt in the City of Saxman and the entire Ketchikan Gateway Borough would benefit.”
According to Cape Fox President Clifford Blair: "A grocery store of some kind will be built in Saxman, servicing Saxman residents and south end of greater Ketchikan Gateway Borough.”
On Friday afternoon, Richmond told the Daily News that the Saxman City Council gave Tim Lewis, the commercial business manager for Cape Fox, the ability to negotiate with Three Bears on the council’s behalf.
Two conditions that the council gave Lewis were that a grocery store would not be at the school house location, and that there would not be a land sale, she said.
Richmond said that Lewis would be presenting a report to the Saxman City Council at Monday’s meeting. As of late Friday afternoon, a copy of the presentation was not available, but was expected to be part of the meeting agenda packet, according to Richmond.
The agenda indicates that Three Bears Alaska has requested that the council “review the terms and respond to the company.”
The council could decide to go into an executive session to discuss the topic, said Richmond.
Three Bears Alaska opened its first store in 1980 at Tok, according to its website.
It now operates Alaska stores in Tok, Big Lake, Chugiak, Palmer/Four Corners, Healy, Kenai, KGB Road in Wasilla, Meadow Lakes in Wasilla, and Ninilchik. Its largest store is a warehouse format store in Butte, Montana.
The company history section on the website says that Three Bears continues to be a family owned and operated company that plans to be around for “quite a few more years” with many more locations to come to serve Alaska and their unique communities.
Dave Weisz, the company’s current CEO and president, is the son of Three Bears’ founder Larry Weisz Sr., according to the company history.
Dave Weisz “continues the values and beliefs that his father set out many years ago that Three Bears will be “just right” for the communities we open stores in,” states the company history.