Valley Living Winter 2022

Page 1

inside

Gathering at Everett’s Nonna’s Osteria Opens Ski at Skeetawk 203 Kombucha

WINTER 2022
The Mat-Su Valley, one story at a time

EDITOR’S NOTE

Welcome to winter, and thank you for reading Valley Living Winter 2022.

Each edition of our quarterly magazine gives us another opportunity to write about the people and places of the Mat-Su. In this edition we are featuring Josie Herbert, Miss Alaska High School.

There is also a new restaurant option, Nonna’s Osteria. We are also featuring popular spots such as Everett’s in Wasilla and Omnivore in Palmer.

Kombucha is the pick for our beverage category in this edition.

Since it is winter, the Skeetawk ski resort highlights our outdoor recreation. For those looking for some fun indoors, there is the Last Frontier Axe Company, Just Imagine Toys is our business feature.

We appreciate the opportunity to continue to share our stories in the Mat-Su.

Thanks for reading, Jeremiah Bartz, managing editor

2 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS page 6 page 13 page 8 page 16
Frontiersman
Tawni
Davis Publisher, Regional Marketing Director, Mat-Su Valley
tawni.davis@frontiersman.com
editor@frontiersman.com
Jeremiah
Bartz Managing Editor, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman
petra.albecker@frontiersman.com Ben Borg Regional Multimedia Marketing Consultant ben.borg@frontiersman.com Contributors Katie Stavick Jacob Mann Amy Bushatz
inside 4 Ski at Skeetawk 6 The Restoration of Engine 557 8 Josie Herbert Reaches for Excellence 10 Nonna’s Osteria Opens 13 Axe Throwing 14 203 Kombucha 16 Just Imagine Toys 20 Everett’s: A Gathering Place 23 Omnivore
Petra
Albecker Regional Multimedia Marketing Consultant
Valley Living is a product of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.
A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 3 Appetizers • Sushi • Meals Draft Beer, W ine & Fine Selection of Sake OPEN FOR LUNCH AND DINNER 7 DAYS A WEEK Voted Best Restaurant by Alaska Business Magazine 2020 & 2021 2022 Best of the Valley Award for Best Restaurant, Best Asian Cuisine, Best Appetizer, Best Seafood, Best Sushi 850 S Rober ts St, Ste 100, Wasilla AK 99654 907- 376-7222 basilginger.com 2018 - 2022 The Most A ward-W inning Restaurant In The Mat-Su! Thank you for voting us BEST in five categories this year. We love ser ving you!

Brews, bathrooms and slope lights coming to Skeetawk for 2022-2023 season

The Valley’s only groomed ski area is getting slope lights, indoor plumbing and beer on tap ahead of the 2022-2023 ski season, thanks to a series of grants, fundraising and new permits.

Skeetawk, located between miles ten and 11 of Hatcher Pass Road, hosts one triple chair lift moving skiers up groomed slopes. Managed by the community-based nonprofit Hatcher Pass Xperience, the lift was completed in June, 2020. But the area is a work

in progress, and the slopes have in the past only been open for use during daylight on weekends and some borough school holidays, while beverage sales were relegated to bottled non-alcoholic drinks or coffee and visitors had to use outhouses.

But all of that is changing this season, said Megan Justus, the ski area’s general manager. Open hours are more than doubling, thanks to the installation of lights, a project that is happening now. Illuminating the slopes means instead of closing by 4:30 p.m. the lift can run after dark,

she said. That means they’ll be newly opened Thursday and Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. to allow for after school skiing, and from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends. A new permit means on-tap brews. And bathrooms plus showers for staff are under construction now.

Those amenities, however, do bring a higher price tag for pass purchases. For the 2021-2022 season, for example, adult season passes ran $390 and a youth pass $200. This year those costs have gone up to $449 and $259, respectively. And Justus expects

the price to increase again next year as even more perks are added, which she says increases the area’s value.

“We do anticipate it going up again, but it won’t just be on a whim,” she said. “It will be comparable to the added services that we’re providing.”

One such service is snowmaking, an addition that will guarantee the ski area can stay open even in unstable weather or if the infamous Valley wind sweeps through and blows out all the naturally occurring snow. That was a big problem for the

4 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS
SKI SEASON

2021-2022 season when a warm spell followed by a wind storm wreaked havoc on the area’s snowpack, first delaying opening and then leaving the area mostly closed through January.

“That’s a huge push for us,” she said. “If we can get snowmaking in, I can have a lot more reliability and consistency for our passholders.”

It will also make hosting the Arctic Winter Games in 2024 much simpler, since instead of transporting many athletes higher up the mountain to compete on natural snow, they can guarantee that the snow in the already groomed area is good to go.

The games occur every two years, and are expected to attract thousands of athletes and support to the Mat-Su.

The ski area pays its basic operational bills through pass and ticket sales, Justus said, but expansions rely on fundraising and grants. She said they’ll be meeting soon with a group of major donors in hopes of securing cash for the snowmaking operation. Eventually the area plans to also add additional lifts to move skiers farther up the mountain, but that effort is years and millions of dollars in future.

Meanwhile, other smaller expansions are already funded or are also in progress, but are a matter of construction time and priorities, she said. For example, next year the steep driveway leading from Hatcher Pass Road up into the ski area will be fixed to reduce the grade, which will allow buses to use it. That’s critical for the Arctic Winter Games, but also will allow Skeetawk to create after school programs with the Borough. A day lodge adjacent to the now under construction bathrooms will also eventually open, shifting visitors from hanging out in the warming yurt, where all sales, food and indoor seating is currently hosted.

Ski and snowboard rentals and lessons were added over last season and will continue this year, Justus said. And she’s hoping a

food permit comes through so they make food on the premises, rather than re-selling previously made food or only hosting food trucks. In the summer users can visit and ride newly constructed mountain bike trails.

Justus is aiming to open the area for skiing this year in mid-December. But that date is highly dependent on the snowpack. When the snow is ready, she knows the users will come.

“This is a community effort,” she said. “We’re not a major corporation. We’re local.”.

Skiers and snowboarders can pre-purchase passes online or buy lift tickets during normal winter operating hours at Skeetawk. For 2022-2023, season passes are $449 for adults; $379 for military members and first responders or students age 13 to 18 (or with a student ID); $259 for youth ages six to 12; and free for those over 70 years old or under five.

Daily lift ticket prices for the 2022-2023 season have yet to be released. Last year they were $39 for adults or $32 for military or first responders; $32 for students ages 13 to 18 or with a student ID; $20 for youth ages six to 12; free for kids five and under or adults over 70.

Annual memberships are available now for $75 for a family and $35 for single users. Those memberships are both a fundraising tool and give holders 10% off any daily ticket sales.

Season passes are also good for

discounts at local stores including Backcountry Bike and Ski and Aktive Soles; several days of free lift tickets at ski areas in Juneau and Fairbanks; and discounts and tickets at a wide variety of ski areas in the Lower-48.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 5

All aboard! Engine 557 restoration hits milestone as it is pinned to tender

In October, crews working on restoring Alaska’s last steam locomotive reached a significant milestone as they drove the pin in connecting the train tender to Engine 557.

Originally built in 1944, Engine 557 provided regular service to the Alaska Railroad until 1962. It was then purchased by a scrapyard dealer and museum owner in Washington State, and ultimately made its way back to Alaska in 2012.

Over the last 10 years, Engine 557 has been undergoing a complete restoration by a team of volunteers. The steadfast volunteers have completely rebuilt the boiler, mechanical, braking and running gear systems.

The Alaska Railroad’s northbound Aurora Winter Train made a brief stop to its normal route, pulling up alongside the Engine House where Engine 557 is located, and exchanged train whistles in recognition of the restoration work.

The highlight was the driving of the pin, meant to connect

the steam engine to the tender, which had to be pushed by several men. No small feat as the tender comes in at 185,000 pounds.

Engine No. 557 is one of 2,120 S-160 class locomotives built for the U.S. Army Transportation

Corps (USATC) between 1942 and 1945 for use in Europe and Africa during World War II. They became known “Gypsy Rose Lee locomotives,” because as Pat Durand, president of the Engine 557 Restoration Company told guests, she was “stripped down for action.”

There are only 28 steam locomotives still in operation today, “Of the 2100 built, only 18 of them stayed in North America. 12 of them came to Alaska and the others were sent to military bases,” Durand said. Many were sent to Asia and India, while still others were sent to European countries such as Poland, Russia, and Hungary.

“They’re a fairly common site in the formerly eastern bloc countries,” said Durand.

Of the 12 sent to Alaska was the U.S. No. 3523, which became Alaska Railroad No. 557. Upon arrival in December 1944, the standard USATC design was modified for Alaska service, including snow plows fashioned for seasonal use.

Engine 557 is a tender locomotive, meaning it pulls a special rail vehicle called a tender, which carries the locomotive’s fuel (wood, coal or oil) and water. That was why the pinning of the locomotive to the tender was the highlight for Saturday’s event.

The 557’s original tender carried coal. Engine 557 was converted to oil, when the federally-owned Alaska Railroad retired its other coal-burning steam engines in 1954.

“The 557 was the last steam locomotive in regular service,

6 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS
ENGINE 557

kept primarily to help during high water conditions in Nenana, where the Tanana and Nenana Rivers regularly flooded the entire town and railyard,” explained Durand. Diesel traction motors did not perform well in water, whereas the steamer could easily ford two feet of water over the rails.

The non-profit Engine 557 Restoration Company was formed to raise funds, coordinate, and oversee the locomotive’s rehabilitation.

The restoration also includes reestablishing the 557’s full classic appearance and bringing it into compliance with today’s passenger rail regulatory requirements.

For train buffs eager to see the progress so far, or catch up on the continuing work, Engine 557 started a YouTube page. So now people can log on and see when the company removed the stay bolts, sandblasting inside the boiler, or dozens of other videos of the work being completed.

The ultimate goal is to put Engine 557 back into special revenue service on the Alaska Railroad.

“We would like to see it return to full passenger operation. Long term, we would love to run from Matanuska to Palmer,” Durand said, an idea Borough Mayor Edna DeVries is fully on board with, no pun intended.

“I think it’s just wonderful, this labor of love,” said Mayor DeVries. “They’ve been working on this for 10 years. Every piece of this is volunteer-mechanical, welding, finances.”

“It’s really fun to see how many talented people are in the Valley that have volunteered. It’s very cool,” said Karen McMaster, who attended along with her husband. She was surprised that there were more “train buffs” than she had realized. “For this to be in Wasilla is really cool, real exciting.”

“This is going to be so much fun,” DeVries said.

The restoration, estimated at just over $2 million, is completely funded through private donations, grants, and gifts of services and products by local businesses. Approximately $350,000 is yet to be raised toward total project

completion in 2024.

For more information about Engine 557 Restoration Company, visit their website at www.557. alaskarails.org, or their Facebook page.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 7
D C A A V A IL A B L E A T E A S T • ( 9 0 7 ) 36 5 - 7 3 93 WINTER BREAK CAMP RU N J U M P P L A LE AP Y E L L S HO U T C A R T W H E E L L A UG H R OL L B O U NC E LE AR N C R AF T P A I N T S NA C K S R E A D W R I TE @ E A G L E R I V E R , E A S T, SO UT H DEC. 26 JAN. 6 THROUGH D A ILY OP EN S W IM, G AME S A ND MORE! RE GI S TER NO W!

‘I want every girl to be heard’

On first glance, Josie Herbert would appear to be like any other 15 year old girl-she loves hair and makeup, landed a coveted spot on her high school varsity cheer squad, and is a poised young lady with a beaming smile. But that’s just a first glance. When sitting down with Josie to talk about her recent achievement, winning the title of Miss Alaska High School, she is anything but a typical high school girl.

For starters, she is a member of the Colony High School Key

Club, a service organization designed to give students the chance to take part in projects that benefit the community while developing leadership skills.

The Key Club partners with the Palmer Kiwanis Club which supports our activities and provides opportunities to be involved in improving the community.

“I really enjoy being part of the team, and I like working with everyone,” she says.

Josie is also involved in Reach 907, organization that works to help empower and strengthen foster kids and at-risk youth, a cause near and dear to her heart. She just recently helped with

their annual RAISE Gala fundraiser to and Josie was a foster child, who came to her parents’ home when she was 8, and was adopted by her parents, Valerie and Dennis, when she was 10. She tears up when telling her story, something she has been working to overcome because she believes in sharing her story as a way to help others.

“Each time she tells it, it’s a chance to get more comfortable sharing it,” says her mom. But that is just a small piece of

her story. Josie is also a model in firsts. She became a Drum Major for Colony High School, the first time she tried out. Soon, she will be conducting at some of her school’s basketball games and leading the band in an upcoming parade. In a few years, she and her high school band will be performing in Dublin, Ireland. In another first, Josie’s first time participating in the pageant process, she walked away with a crown. She stunned onstage, taking home many awards including People’s Choice and the overall title. Not an easy achievement

8 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS
STAR REACHER
Miss Alaska High School spreads a powerful message as she gets ready for National competitions.

for anyone.

“We had hoped she would place, so when she won, we were all so excited,” says her mother.

For Josie, participating in the pageant process is helping her overcome hurdles from her learning disability, including public speaking, leadership skills, and communication skills.

“Being in the pageants has helped me so much with building up my skills,” she says, even communicating through Zoom for the interview is a building block in communication.

Josie has a strong support system in older sister Shalyte Moore, who has extensive pageant experience herself, having been named the former Miss Global USA and Miss Latina America, and competing in numerous pageants.

“My sister Shalyte has been coaching, helping me learn how to walk the runway,” she says.

Josie was able to work with her sister, as Moore is the manager of

the 2022 Miss Deltana Pageant, which Josie was able to participate in the opening number and had the opportunity to walk the runway (she was not a participant in the pageant).

Josie also received support from another pageant winner, Mrs. Alaska.

“She made it look so enjoyable, so fun. I decided that I wanted to get involved.”

Josie’s biggest fan and supporter is her adopted mother, Valerie.

“She has just really worked hard to build on what she’s learning-how to communicate, how to tell her story. She has a tremendously powerful message and we couldn’t be more proud of everything she’s doing,” she says, with a smile only a proud mother could have.

Along with being a role model to girls, Josie is also working to convey a message of empowerment and helping other girls find their voices.

“It’s important to me because

I really want every girl to be heard,” Josie says. “I want girls like me, who were foster kids, and then adopted, who see someone like me know that they can overcome the challenges they have too.”

Josie’s platform as she moves on to the National Pageant, set to take place is Arkansas next year.

“I’m really excited. I am proud to represent Palmer, as well as Alaska. It means a lot to me.”

So what’s next for the busy girl?

Aside from the National Pageant, Josie is looking towards competing for a Fur Rondy Princess title in a few years, and perhaps other pageants as well. She is also looking to a career where she can help people express themselves.

“I’ve thought about going into hair and makeup, something creative where I can use art.” There is no doubt that whatever path Josie chooses, the goal-oriented young girl will get there, with an infectious smile on her face.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 9
Quality Construction Step-By-Step for 40 Years P: (907) 746-1880 | F: (907) 746-2670 6382 E Beechcraft Road Wasilla, Alaska 99654 Commercial & Residential Construction Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings WWW.STEPPERSAK.COM

When most people reach retirement age, they might travel, pick up a new hobby, take on a part time job or new hobby, or find ways to stay active. But not Marian Romano.

When most people are coming out of a global pandemic, facing supply chain and shipping delays, they might think or hesitate opening a new business. But not Marian Romano.

The feisty, Brooklyn-born Italian isn’t afraid of challenges, instead facing them head on, including her dream of owning her own restaurant. The busy woman runs circles around the rest of us as she has opened her restaurant in some rather unprecedented times while keeping to traditional Italian ingredients and techniques.

“It’s a lot, and I’m old, but my brain is still working,” she jokes when she talks about her business, Nonna’s Osteria.

Romano has a passion for food that she has cultivated since she was a girl, working as a waitress when she was 16, when she became enamored of the restaurant industry.

“I love cooking and my commitment to the restaurant is all in here,” she says, pointing to her heart.

After high school, she applied to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the only culinary school in the states in 1968.

“I applied at CIA, that was pretty much it for culinary schools

Authentically Italian

at the time. I love to bake and I wanted to be in the food business. They said ‘Dear Miss Romano, thank you for your application, but we don’t accept women.’”

That was not the first time she had heard ‘no.’ Whether it was trying to get a paper route, playing little league, or applying to the CIA (the culinary school, not the other CIA), Romano had heard ‘no, because you’re a woman.’

She considered going to Cornell University to study, because academically she had the grades to get in, but with her brother already in school, money being a little tight, and not knowing what scholarships she may have qualified for, Romano instead attended Queens College, where she received a degree in Home Economics.

“Nice Italian girls don’t go away to college, nor do they join the military.” It was 1968 after all, and 1968 was a year of major upheaval and turmoil in America-Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, Robert Kennedy too. The Civil Rights

Act was passed, though riots and looting still loomed from Washington D.C. to Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. The Vietnam War reached an apex with the Tet Offensive, and students around the country protested the US involvement.

“I asked my parents; Vietnam was happening and I felt like I needed to participate, but they said ‘Italian girls don’t go into the

military.’ Really, you’re not supposed to leave your family back then, until you got married.”

She met her husband while he was on his last leave from the military, having been stationed at the “B” Battery at the end of Knik.

“He came back (to New York), we got married, I finished college. He said ‘let’s go for an adventure.’ We didn’t have any kids yet, didn’t have any debt,

10 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS
NONNA’S COOKIN’
Nonna’s Osteria offers simple, clean, traditional Italian food
“I love cooking and my commitment to the restaurant is all in here,” she says, pointing to her heart.

when’s that going to happen. So I said Europe; he said Alaska.” So, Romano and her husband came up to Alaska in 1973 and a few years later, she had her first business.

And in 1979, Romano opened The Deli, in downtown Wasilla, when the population was a much cozier 500. With her Italian meats and cheeses being delivered to hungry patrons all over town, the Deli grew over the next 13 years. In between all of that, she was able to secure a spot at the Alaska State Fair in 1984 before selling The Deli in 1990.

“I was 58, and I wasn’t ready to retire, but unable to find a job,” Romano says. It was during a lamenting period with a girlfriend that she realized it wasn’t too late to achieve a dream that had lingered.

“She asked me what I really wanted to do, and I was able to clear out all the things I resented not doing before, and after a couple of days, I knew I still wanted to go to cooking school. And have a restaurant of my own.”

So, after all those years, Romano was able to realize her dream and attended the Instituto de Culinaria da Italiana (ICI) cooking school in Italy. During the next 6 months, Romano learned Italian cooking techniques and foods from other regions beyond that which she had learned from her family roots, which go back to Puglia and Campagna.

“Everything just came together. I was over there in Italy and it was great,” she says, though not quite complete. “My thing was I had wanted to go to cooking school, and when I come home I want to open my restaurant. It didn’t take very long to get through cooking school; but would take 10 years after the comma to find a place.”

Romano spent those 10 years practicing what she had learned, traveling back to Italy for more culinary training and research, and of course tasting all the wonderful flavors of Italy. Back here in Wasilla, Romano continued catering in the Mat-Su Valley

and Anchorage, all while keeping an eye on her goal.

And she achieved it right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its own period of chaos, unrest, and change like 1968. The spot where Nonna’s Osteria sits became available as a casualty of the pandemic. Everything seemed to align for Romano, who says all the pieces came together to bring Nonna’s to life.

“It’s a deeply spiritual thing that I’m here. It’s part of the insane journey.”

Romano prides her food on being authentic to the Italian traditions she grew up learning from her own family, from her

Nonna.

“In Italy, Nonnas are the keepers of the recipes, of the cuisine. The grandmothers and great-grandmothers. In Italy, everybody’s Nonna is the owner of the true recipe. Every house, every Nonna has the accurate, authentic lasagna,” she says, adding that the families always agree it is the best, politely disagree with members of other families say theirs is the best.

“When a woman marries, she learns the recipes of her husband’s Nonna, and that is what she is to prepare.”

That tradition is why Romano named her restaurant Nonna’s. “It was a way to honor all of the

Nonnas that came before me.” And the Osteria? Well, that Romano says means “small, family place.”

“I didn’t actually realize that originally the word was connected to the wine, and Osteria is like a wine tavern. I didn’t know that. I hadn’t been in an Osteria that didn’t look like this, with the mother in the back and dad in the front. It’s a small place, family-run, and simple.”

Romano’s passion for remaining true to her own Nonnas carries through in the quality of the ingredients she chooses for her dishes.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 11
Continued on next page

“I have been anti-junk since I was in college,” she says, talking about the processes many food companies use in mass-producing food today. When she was in college studying food and home economics in the 1970’s, food preparation began to change reflecting the changes taking place

in many households began.

“We learned about this new thing or that new thing, but that wasn’t going to be it for me. We raised our own animals-beef, chicken, pork; grew our own oats-something he still does.”

While she is no longer married to her former husband, she does

continue to use his pork for her meatballs, among other ingredients.

“Our mission is to feed people very clean, very authentic food. In Italian, that means simple ingredients of good quality. You can’t afford one crappy ingredient.” Among the ingredients Romano boasts using are aged Parmesan Reggiano cheese from Italy, organic eggs, pure butter, and Italian flour.

“We make everything from scratch, including the pasta and the bread.”

Everything in Nonna’s, from the tables and chairs to the dishware is made in America, something Romano is exceptionally proud of, noting that sometimes it took time to find the pieces she needed, but never compromising on making sure everything was crafted in the United States.

“Everything here is made in America, unless it came from Italy,” she says, pointing to the massive pizza oven that came from Italy.

Romano still has a loyal customer base from her time with the Deli that still seek her out for the wonderful pasta and pastries.

Seven months in, she is still surprised when customers come in to her restaurant, not having been anywhere near it, even

during the busy Black Friday shopping, Romano was shocked by the business her restaurant had.

“I didn’t think people would come down here. Shopping’s down by Fred Meyers and everything, and we’re off the beaten path. People came down from wherever they were, and a lot of them were customers we hadn’t seen before.”

But that actually pleases her as she sees it as the missed opportunities many don’t have to get away for lunch or maybe it’s just hard to get out her way.

As she looks upon her restaurant, which was closed as it is every afternoon for a few hours before dinner, Romano is content and grateful for the success she and her staff have enjoyed so far.

“It was an unbelievable journey. It is a culmination of a lifetime of trying to get where I wanted to go. I’ve had a great life in between, but this, this is everything I’d hoped.”

Nonna’s Osteria is located at 201 W Herning Ave in Wasilla. The restaurant is open Tuesdays-Saturdays from 9:00 am-3: 00 pm, and then again from 5:00 pm-9:00 pm. They are closed Sundays and Mondays.

12 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS
New looks for Spring; Old Hollywood Fashions, Color, Romantic & even long satin gloves are back! Serving brides, their friends & families since 1984. Hundreds of wedding gowns in stock, current as well as closeout styles to choose from. Appointment hours are 10:30AM - 6:30PM, Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. No walk in visits, please. 160 Park Ave, Wasilla (907) 376-3180 www.arcticrosebridal.com

Last Frontier Axe Company, a fun and welcoming winter pastime

The Last Frontier Axe Company is an ideal place to spend the winter, according to general manager Loretta Avis.

“It’s a good place to hang out, and we have heat,” Avis said with a laugh.

Last Frontier Axe Company is open to all ages. Avis said the idea there is simple, wholesome, and all around fun. People throw axes of different sizes and styles that suit their fancy while enjoying the company of their friends and loved ones.

Avis said that winter is the busiest time of year at Last Frontier Axe Company. She said they hold numerous holiday parties on top of their normal walk-ins and private events. She said it’s an ideal place for families and anyone looking for entertainment without having to drive all the way to Anchorage. “This is just a fun place,” Avis said. “I think it’s great. I think the Valley needs a lot more events and spaces for events... It’s kind of a breath of fresh air.”

Avis said they’re also preparing for a busy summer. She said they bring an axe throwing trailer for various events and venues such as the Alaska State Fair.

Avis said their first season at the

Fair went really well and they plan to return to the Fair every year, which will greatly help their overall presence in the community.

“The Fair was fantastic. That was a huge turning point,” Avis said.

Last Frontier Axe Company welcomes walk-ins throughout the week, but they encourage visitors to call ahead to ensure space is available.

For more information, call 907357-2933 or visit lastfrontieraxe. com.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 13
AXEVENDORSTHROWING
“The Fair was fantastic. That was a huge turning point,” Avis said.

203 Kombucha continues to grow with community

203 Kombucha owner Brian Daniels said they’re happy settling into the role they’re playing in the overall downtown Palmer experience.

“We wanted to bring a cool, fun, healthy new product to Palmer and offer an exciting community space,” Daniels said. “I really think that businesses bring a lot of life into the town. It makes a town vibrant. We’re just doing our small part in that. We want to continue to grow with the

community.”

203 Kombucha offers numerous fermented drinks. Daniels said they always have seven flagship flavors with rotating special batches.

It keeps it exciting,” Daniels said. “It’s like the bar feel with a twist. It’s for all ages, and it’s very inviting.”

Daniels said they recently started serving Farm Loop Coffee products. He said they work with numerous local farms such as Bushes Bunches, and it’s always

fun to show them what their products taste like with the 203 Kombucha spin.

“We are always looking to get more products from local farmers,” Daniels said.

203 Kombucha holds weekly events and activities such as chess, trivia, open mics, and live music.

“If you have something cool you want to do, the venue’s available,” Daniels said they have an art corner dedicated to local artists. He said they recently built a stage

for local performers.

“We just really want to highlight that we have a venue for local musicians. We’re really excited about that,” Daniels said.

203 Kombucha’s four year anniversary is in February.

“It feels fantastic. We’re looking forward to our anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years.”

For more information, call 907203-0716 or visit the 203 Kombucha Facebook page.

14 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VENDORS

ONE STEP

AHEAD OF THE REST

L.J. Smith—L.J. Smith is known as the innovative leader in the stair parts industry with the most comprehensive style offering available. Our products are defined by their unique design— providing uncompromised durability and style.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 15
PROUD SUPPLIER OF
ASK SBS

Just Imagine Toys: teaching and inspiring children of all ages

Just Imagine Toys owner Mary Scheie has been growing her small business with the Mat-Su Valley for nearly two decades. She credited the locally minded shoppers for her continued success over the years.

“We’ve been doing well. I think a lot of people are shopping local,” Scheie said. “We really enjoy our

customers. They’re great.”

Local shoppers have a variety of options to choose from at Just Imagine Toys. The cozy little shop bolsters a large collection of unique gift options for children of all ages.

Scheie said that she regularly cycles through new products while keeping the best sellers on the shelves. She said that she’s car-

rying more books than previous years. She said her mission has always been to offer a wide range of open ended products.

“We’re always looking for new stuff,” Scheie said. “Hopefully they’ll learn something from the toys and use their imagination. That’s what we look for in the toys.”

Just Imagine Toys opened to the

public in 2004. Scheie said that she saw a need for quality toys within the Valley and she wanted to help locals get their shopping done without having to venture outside.

Scheie said that one of her favorite aspects of running a toy store has been watching her regular customer’s kids play and grow over the years. She also enjoys

16 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS
LEARNVENDORS & PLAY

arranging the displays and making them look happy and fun with each passing season. She said that she’s glad that she embarked on this journey and she has a lot of great memories to look back on.

“It’s been a lot of fun and hard work,” Scheie said. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

For more information, visit justimagine.toys.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 17
“We’ve been doing well. I think a lot of people are shopping local,” Scheie said. “We really enjoy our customers. They’re great.”
FAMILY OWNED & OPERATED SERVING ALASKA SINCE 1986 SERVING ALASK A FOR OVER 3 DEC ADES WWW.CHEPOSFIESTA.COM 11535 MARKE T ST EAGLE RIVER, AK 907.696.4696 731W PARKS HWY WASILLA, AK 907.373.5656 HOURS: SUND AY-THURSD AY: 11A M -10P M FRID AY & SATURD AY: 11A M -11P M Best Ser vice Best Mexican Food Best Margarita T WO LOCATIONS:

A special visit to MATCOM helps family prepare for emergencies

Most people will never need to use 9-1-1, but take comfort in knowing that when needed, it can be accessed, relieved in knowing that when call, someone is on the other line and help is on the way. But what about those times when help is needed and a mobility or disability prevents someone from reaching out for help? It’s

not something most people think about until that moment arises.

It is something that Eric Edwards and his mother Judy faced when Judy was not able to call 9-1-1 and Eric was unable to call. It’s just the 2 of them in their home. Eric is 15, an incredible boy who persists with his problem solving skills and communication skills and loves anything that has to do with “Frozen.”

He also has cerebral palsy, which limits him to a wheelchair, unable to speak, and requires total assistance for his basic needs.

“Although he has multiple disabilities, the people that know him can see far beyond his disabilities. He is so much more than his disabilities,” says Judy of her son.

How would Eric call 9-1-1 if there was an emergency and his mother was nonresponsive or otherwise unable to communicate? This triggered a practice phone call with 9-1-1 through MATCOM.

MATCOM is responsible for the dispatch of emergency services for the entire Borough, serving approximately 52,000 square miles. In any emergency, dispatchers are trained to run through a series of questions needed to help get the best assistance in an emergency. MATCOM ran through a similar series of questions that Eric would need to respond to in an emergency. They also offered for Eric and his special education team a visit to MATCOM, and a chance to go ‘behind the scenes’ to see what goes on in the dispatch center. Eric and his mother were also able to set up a ‘Premises Note’ for responders. A “Premise Note’ is a critical, detailed note set up to alert responders of any vital information needed in special cases like theirs. In this case, that Eric is in a wheelchair and unable to communicate without his assistive technology.

To communicate, Eric uses a Tobii-Dynavox Speech Generating Device (SGD), which he accesses through eye gaze (currently the only student in the district that uses eye gaze access with SGD).

After a successful trial period to demonstrate success, he was able get his own personal Tobii-Dynavox SGD in September 2021. Currently, he is the only student in the district that uses eye gaze access with SGD.

“This communication device has opened Eric’s world for possibilities within his environment and academic growth,” says his Speech Language Pathologist, Mary Dooher.

The device, much like a tablet, is able to track Eric’s eyes as he selects various icons to navigate through communication messages and maneuver through other accessible options with his device. He can access items within his environment, such as turning his lights on and off or viewing various cameras placed around his home. Eric is able to make phone calls to family and friends, and he can access videos on YouTube.

18 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS PREPAREDNESS
“It has been tremendous to see
Assistive Technology of Alaska (ATLA) has aided to “smarten” Eric and Judy’s home, which included using Amazon’s “Alexa” to assist Eric with making telephone calls.

him successfully use his device! He initiates communication now, whereas before he was reliant on a communication partner to read his body and facial gestures and ask a series of yes/no questions trying to narrow down what message he was trying to express,” says Judy.

Assistive Technology of Alaska (ATLA) has aided to “smarten” Eric and Judy’s home, which included using Amazon’s “Alexa” to assist Eric with making telephone calls.

“There are still problems that arise with his device, but we are working through them together, and with the support of other team members and community agencies,” his mother adds.

The technology is not without its flaws, one of which is that to use “Alexa” to call 9-1-1, users need to pay for a subscription. Dooher has been working with Wenchelle Lao from Amazon/Alexa on strategies to help Eric communicate in

the event of an emergency.

While Eric, Judy, and their team work to improve the assistive technology so Eric will be able to call for help, they have a backup plan if ever needed involving a phone chain within the team and people Eric can reach without using “Alexa.”

While cameras weren’t allowed inside the dispatch center, Eric enjoyed seeing how everything worked, and the dispatchers were able to meet with Eric and were impressed with his abilities and how he is able to communicate by simply using his eye movement. They even offered him a job if he wanted, to which he said:

“Thank you,” with a big beaming smile.

“What was a really informative, special afternoon, to spend with MATCOM! Incredible people doing incredible work!” said Dooher.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 19
Ne w Loc atio N o pe N ed iN 2020! Visit our new location in wasilla! 860 S R obe R t S S t Wa S illa, a K Ho ur s: 11 aM to 9 PM Da i lY ht t PS://S eno R tacoa K co M/ 907.373.8226 Loc a LLY ow N ed a N d oper ated aut H e N tic M e X ic a N F ood

Everett’s: a gathering place

Everett’s and the Mat-Su Resort offers more than just fine dining and scenic accommodations, according to general manager Amber Glasser. She said there’s always something going on at the iconic location nestled beside Wasilla Lake.

“We are so many things,” Glasser said.

Everett’s has hosted a wide variety of events over the years. Glasser said there’s always something going on. She said they live music and other types of shows throughout the year.

She said the live comedy per-

formances are one of their main attractions during the winter months. She said they hold shows every other Friday with their partner Kevin Kern of Hooked Entertainment.

“We work with a lot of local businesses to try and provide a space for the community,” Glasser said.

Visitors can take advantage of the lakeside property throughout the year. During the summer, they can enjoy their meals outside, attend outdoor concerts, and rent boats with their friends and family.

During the winter, they clear the lake for ice skating and offer nu-

20 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS
WINTER DIVERSIONS
com thefernak www N #100 St Cobb s 625 AK Palmer CACAO CEREMONIAL AND TEA, ARTISANAL COFFEE, ROASTED LOCALLY SMOOTHIES, FRUIT REAL BOWLS, SUPERFOOD + ACAI HANDCRAFTED FOR GO TO PLACE PALMER'S
continues on page 22
Story
A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 21 Lakeside Fine Dining & Casual Fare The Best Food in Town! OPEN DAILY Serving Lunch, Brunch & Dinner Live Entertainment on Fridays 1850 E Bogard Rd, Wasilla Mat-SuResort.com 907- 357-5000
just trying to bring value to the community and we want everyone to enjoy this location,”
said.
“We’re
Glasser

merous indoor activities.

Glasser said they hold a New Year’s Eve celebration every year with a fireworks show.

“I will continue doing it every year because it’s so much fun,” Glasser said.

Glasser said they regularly host Rotary International and other community groups, and they invite anyone who’s interested in utilizing their space to reach out.

“We’re just trying to bring value to the community and we want everyone to enjoy this location,” Glasser said.

Many Valley residents are familiar with the Mat-Su Resort. Glasser said that Jerry Neeser acquired the well known property in 2015 with a simple yet grand goal in mind, providing a multifaceted community hub to be enjoyed by all.

“The restaurant spoke to him,” Glasser said with a laugh. “This location has 75 years of history in the Valley. Everything happens for a reason. I think it’s really

special… I think his vision was just to really accommodate the community. He has a very big vision and wants to provide for the whole Mat-Su. He loves this place.”

Glasser said she’s thankful for having such a dedicated staff that keeps the whole operation running smoothly.

“I’ve got such a good team here,” Glasser said. “We’ve just been really focusing on giving the best guest service that we can and just hone in on the community.”

For more information, 907-3575000 or visit mat-suresort.com/ everetts.

22 VALLEY LIVING A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS proud sponsor of local youth te Serving Customers with a Smile since 2001 proud sponsor of local youth te ams Serving Customers with a Smile since 2001 Get your Perkup Rewards to earn free drinks Follow us at Perkup Espresso LLC on Facebook and Instagram for random giveaways and specials 7 LOCATIONS TO SERVE YOU | OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK Palmer 1800 N Glenn Hwy – 746-4365 1754 N Prospect Drive – 745-5028 Wasilla 3700 E Palmer Wasilla Hwy– 357-5027 2200 E Parks Hwy – 373-5027 1690 S Fern Street – 357-5020 7534 W Parks Hwy (Meadow Lakes) – 232-0323 Anchorage 201 W Potter – 561-2028 2015, 2016, 2017, 2020, 2021, 2022
“I’ve got such a good team here,” Glasser said.

Omnivore coming back for seconds

Omnivore owner Emerald Kroeker strives to offer a healthy allergy sensitive eating experience in addition to providing a fun and educational space for the community.

Omnivore started out as a food truck. Kroeker eventually took the next step and purchased the former Humdinger’s Gourmet Pizza Company building as her first brick and mortar.

The restaurant features the most popular items from the food truck along with several new choices.

Kroeker said that she plans to rotate the menu on a regular basis.

She said that her goal for the restaurant is an extension of what she set out to do two years ago when she first opened her food truck, providing healthy and flavorful meals from scratch.

Kroeker said that she’s had a lot of positive feedback and encouragement which propels her to keep moving forward.

“We’ve had so many happy people come through. I think my favorite comments are oh my God I can actually eat here,” Kroeker said with a laugh. “It feels really good.”

Omnivore recently started hosting movie nights every other month. Their most recent movie night featured “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“We had a really good turnout for that,” Kroeker said.

Movie nights are just the beginning of what Kroeker ultimately has in mind. She said that she’s looking to start educational workshops and special events throughout the years. Whether it’s an art class, nutritional workshops,

or poetry reading, she’s working to help her restaurant reach its full potential as a venue by hosting a variety of community activities and welcomes any ideas that locals want to bring to her attention.

“We want to be like a hub for eating and education,” Kroeker said.

The path to getting here wasn’t easy, but Kroeker is hopeful for the future. She said that she learned a lot and she’s eager to put that knowledge to good use.

“Overall I think it’s better for our family to be in a stationary location rather than moving around all over the place,” Kroeker said.

For more information, call 907290-1653 or visit omnivorealaska. com.

A PUBLICATION OF WICK COMMUNICATIONS VALLEY LIVING 23
COMMUNITY
“We want to be like a hub for eating and education,” Kroeker said.

Mat-Su’s premier lifestyle magazine

Valley Living magazine covers the people, surroundings and events that make the Mat-Su Valley the best place to live, work and play, with features on lifestyle, art, recreation, culinary, home & garden, business, and more.

Published quarterly in print and as E-edition, it attracts engaged, female readers, ages 30+. Pick up your free copy at many high traffic locations around the Mat-Su or go to frontiersman.com for the E-edition. Is connecting to an educated and hyperlocal female readership important to your business? Then discover the power of targeted magazine advertising. With Valley Living magazine, you will get in front of active and passionate women who are keen to discover and enjoy new experiences and products. Contact our team today to learn about advertising and sponsor opportunities in Valley Living!

advertising@frontiersman.com 907-352-2250 Frontier sm an M at - S u V a ll e y