PUBLISHED: 11:11 AM on Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Killbear brews up a plan to be with her children

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Lillian Killbear brews up a business with Made In The Shade Espresso in the lobby of Rainbow Foods in Juneau.
Lillian Killbear has a new life and a new business in Juneau. That's what helps her keep her family together.

Killbear, who moved to Juneau from Barrow four years ago, now owns and runs Made In The Shade Espresso at Rainbow Foods.

Killbear made the move from her hometown so that her four children could benefit from various alternative programs. She said once home-schooled her children, but put them in public school after her divorce.

"They aren't used to the public school format. They're very smart, but they need some help because they have learned in a different environment. They just couldn't get that attention when we were living in Barrow," Killbear said.

Killbear, a single mother, has worked whatever jobs she could find to make a living. Although trained as a pharmaceutical technician, when she arrived in Juneau, there just wasn't a job for her in that field.

When she first moved to Juneau, Killbear thought she could easily get a job as a pharmaceutical technician, which she had done in the past.

"I came believing a job was waiting for me, but when I got here (four years ago) I could not get a job or housing. The Legislature had just started so there wasn't any housing available," Killbear said. "My kids and I lived in the AWARE shelter for six months and the people were so great."

Killbear said she misses being around her family in her hometown of Barrow, but thought the move would be better for her children.

"It wasn't worth staying to sacrifice my family, and I wanted to stay in the state," Killbear said. "I came to Juneau sight unseen and hated it the first year. But it grows on you."

Killbear, who is half Native Eskimo and half German, said her last name comes from a time when her great grandfather killed the most polar bears in their village near Barrow.

She worked as a chef at University of Alaska Southeast but said working in Auke Bay and living in downtown Juneau without having a vehicle was difficult. She said she also wanted more time to be with her children, who went to school in downtown.

"When I worked out by Auke Bay I just felt so far removed. I loved the university, but my kids are my first priority," Killbear said. "I have fibromyalgia and when I got home I would just be useless. I remember crying one night because my daughter wanted help with her homework and I couldn't help her because I felt so bad."

When she had the chance to buy the espresso business, she said, she borrowed the down payment from a friend and went into business.

"It was already a great system and all set up. I was already a strong proponent of organic products and the location is so compatible," Killbear said. "If it weren't organic, I might not have done it. I like for people to make healthy choices and I can offer that to them."

Killbear took over the coffee stand in May and said the first few months were tough going.

"My kids spent the summer with their dad, so there weren't many mouths to feed, and I could get by. The road construction began in that first week I started and what a nightmare. I didn't think that one through," Killbear said. "Rainbow Foods even let me waive the rent a few times when sales were really low. My art that I sold kept me going for a while."

Homebrewed chai is her most popular product, Killbear said. The organic coffee is fresh roasted each week from Juanita's Coffee, small Juneau company.

Killbear said she enjoys working at the coffee stand and has someone working in the afternoon, which allows her to be home when her children are finished with school.

"They love it. They all come by and put their hands in the tip jar for lunch money," Killbear said. "Their friends come by and talk with me. I really enjoy listening to people and talking with them."

Killbear said she also uses the venue as a place to display her artwork.

"If I could be paid to be an artist, that's what I would be doing," Killbear said. "What I've got here is coffee, art and enlightenment."