14 Hours And A Costco Card: How A Grocer In Alaska Feeds His Town In A Pandemic : Coronavirus Updates In Gustavus, a remote city of about 450 residents, the owner of a small independent grocery makes the 14-hour round-trip journey by boat to Juneau to bring much-needed supplies back to his customers.

14 Hours And A Costco Card: How A Grocer In Alaska Feeds His Town In A Pandemic

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/855096128/855096129" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The pandemic touches just about every part of the world, even the town of Gustavus, Alaska. As described by one resident, this town is a little remote.

TOSHUA PARKER: We've got water on a couple sides and a steep mountain range on the other.

INSKEEP: It's surrounded by Glacier Bay National Park and sits on the tip of a peninsula.

PARKER: We are totally cut off from the rest of Alaska. There's no roads here, so it's only airplanes or boats to get in here.


Toshua Parker owns and operates Icy Strait Wholesale in Gustavus. His store is best known by another name.

PARKER: The community started calling it Toshco (ph) years ago, kind of a play off of my name and Costco, which is where we got, originally, most of our items from. And so the name just kind of stuck.

MARTIN: It's basically a general store where a summer backpacker tourist could pick up a bottle of water and some trail mix.

PARKER: Absolutely. You can walk in and get anything you need right off the shelf pretty much.

INSKEEP: But the town's 450 permanent residents also rely on Toshco for supplies like washing machines.

PARKER: We have a little bit of everything, from groceries to hardware to lumber to occasionally appliances.

INSKEEP: Now, normally Mr. Parker would rely on Alaska's ferry system to deliver goods to his store by water. But that's not an option now, partly due to coronavirus stoppages. So Parker has started making his own weekly round trips to get supplies from the city of Juneau.

PARKER: Unfortunately, as the bird flies, Juneau may only be around 50 miles away. But it's quite a bit longer than that by boat.

INSKEEP: Fifty miles which take Parker and his crew 14 hours to get there and back.

PARKER: We have to time everything around the tides. We have to leave Gustavus at high tide, head to Juneau, get unloaded, reloaded and back again on the next high tide.

MARTIN: And you thought your trips to get groceries were tough. Parker gives credit to his 15 employees.

PARKER: They're coming to work every day no matter what during this pandemic to make sure the town has groceries.

MARTIN: Later today, Toshua Parker of Icy Strait Wholesale and his crew will be making their second round trip to Juneau to bring back supplies to the people of Gustavus, Alaska.


Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.