Brand power

I spent my summer holiday in the far north exploring Alaska and the Yukon. One of the joys of a holiday that takes you to towns and cities with small populations is that you get to see entrepreneurial creativity in full flourish since the chains don’t see many of these markets as viable. Nowhere is this more evident than in the coffee houses of the north. Consider this list of whimsical coffee house concepts:

• Brewed Awakening (Ketchikan, Alaska)
• Pour House (Ketchikan, Alaska)
• The Black Bean: Burritos and Espresso to Go (Skagway, Alaska)

Fun stuff, no?

Sadly, I don’t think the residents of these towns fully appreciate how good they have it. I met a man in Juneau, Alaska who told me that when McDonald’s opened there several years ago that a 2-mile line up for food formed on opening day. Even if the line was only 200 yards long this is disheartening news. But, to make matters worse, the mayor of neighbouring Ketchikan had a plane load of Big Mac combos air-lifted out for his citizens (or at least cronies) to eat. (I guess he hadn’t been to the Sandpiper Café in Juneau where, despite being in Alaska, the hand formed burger patties are piled high with romaine lettuce and ripe tomato slices. An airlift of those burgers I could understand!)

My plea to you today, whether you live in a big city or in a backwater, is to find a locally owned food shop, restaurant or coffee cart and show them some love by making a purchase. And, if you want to tell others about these great local finds, I hope you’ll jot a note about them below.


10 Responses to Brand power

  1. That mayor should have his head examined! How is flying in MacDonald’s helping his community?!

    Guelph has many good local eateries. The Red Brick and Capistrano are two downtown coffee shops I love. We also have a wonderful tea room, Salon du The. The Greenroom at The Bookshelf makes intriguing tapas and you can get amazing salsa at The Salsateria. Latinos has South American food and French desserts while Bollywood and Diana’s make great curries. The Babel Fish Bistro was on Restaurant Makeover (although I preferred the cheap and cheerful “before” decor) and is a landmark.

    Local cafes and restaurants have so much more personality and innovative food. I don’t know how fast food franchises stay in business. I don’t frequent them, but I guess I’m a rarity.

  2. danamccauley says:

    Guelph sounds blessed! I’m going to save your note for the next time visit Guelph (every once in awhile I work with the Guelph Food and Technology Centre and I never know where to go!).

  3. Cheryl says:

    The Bay Area is filled with great local food options, but one of my favorite finds over the past year was a little hole-in-the-wall Jamaican restaurant called Back A Yard in Menlo Park, Calif. It’s not much to look at but it’s got real heart, plentiful, tasty food, reasonable prices, and a unique authenticity you just wouldn’t find in a chain.

    I love, love, love the burrito/espresso concept you wrote about. Very clever!

  4. dinnerwithjulie says:

    Cafe Beano in Calgary – espresso float. Espresso poured over ice cream. I could go for coffee every day…

  5. Ann says:

    I live in Ketchikan. Trust me we haven’t gone crazy over McDonalds. We’ve had our own McDonalds for close to twenty years and yes it did set a record for an opening day. I don’t recall the Mayor airlifting Macs from Juneau. I do remember folks in neighboring communities (all on islands so everything travels by air or boat) airlifting food back home because it was such a novelty- which has since worn off. Our town of 13,500 supports far more locally owned eateries than fast food chains including culturally diverse offerings. Two of the longest operating restaurants in town feature Phillipine food. We also have several Thai, Chinese and sushi restaurants and of course restaurants that serve WILD Alaskan seafoods. Not that farmed stuff so many lower 48’ers buy.
    And as an aside to the comment about coffee places- we also have one called “Mocha My Day”. You might be interested to know our town supports three locally roasted brands of coffee as well.

  6. danamccauley says:

    Mocha my Day! Love!

    Thanks for your note Ann. just to be clear, my report about the Mayor was anecdotal so I have no proof it happened exactly the way I was told.

    I had lunch at a place in Ketchikan that was very good, too. It was called Annabelle’s Keg and Chowder house. The bread was cakey and redolent of rosemary and the chowder was creamy and fresh. Yum! Ketchikan is a good place!

  7. Hélène says:

    I have to tell you that my sons (14 & 16) prefer to eat out at a local joint that makes fresh food. It’s called Atlas Café and it’s in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. The food is so good. They have things like: Blue corn quesadillas filled with beans, roasted red peppers etc. Also they serve the best fish tacos. If you come in our area don’t miss that local restaurant.

  8. danamccauley says:

    Ah, Courtenay is beautiful – what a nice place to live. I was there as a teenager and would love to come back – especially now that i know good fish taco are available!

    I think a lot of people, both young and old, really like fresh, authentically prepared food. I just think it’s easier to go to a chain than to take a chance on an unknown, new place.

  9. Rosa says:

    Great! I’m only into eating REAL food, so I’d always choose such wonderful little places…



  10. Kitt says:

    Ann confirmed what I suspected. Sure, the first McDonald’s to open is going to draw a crowd, just as the first Krispy Kreme in Denver had cars lined up for miles, practically. But it doesn’t necessarily spell the doom of every mom-and-pop cafe (or donut shop).

    What does amaze me, though, is the people who travel to places that have all kinds of great food options, but they only want to eat at Applebee’s. I’ve seen a few of these in blogland, and I have to bite my tongue.

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