Story last updated at 4/4/2012 - 11:34 am
Please briefly describe your business.
The Silverbow is a cool little boutique hotel in a historic building with modern amenities and a delicious bakery and café that produces food from scratch. You can't get more local then food baked right on Second Street. Many people mainly associate us with our bagels (which are amazing), but we're much more than that.
When did your business begin? Did you see a niche to fill, is there a story behind it?
We bought the building in 1997. Unbelievably, this year we are celebrating our 15 year anniversary. My husband (Ken Alper) and I were fresh out of masters programs in architecture and urban planning and thought it would be fun to renovate a dilapidated old building. We laugh now at how ridiculously nażve that was. Ken calls me his war buddy, like we suffered so much we are forever bonded. Also, after spending a summer in Juneau, we knew there was a need for a breakfast and lunch place downtown.
What is your business's mission, and how do you work to achieve this?
Our original mission was to make the third place. That's the term social scientists use for the place people go in addition to their homes and work. We envisioned a place where people would congregate; a downtown social hub. At the time we didn't see that niche being met.
How many employees do you have?
We have about 25 employees. About 14 are full-time.
How do you select them?
We like to say we hire for attitude and train for skill. But unfortunately, sometimes the options are limited and we simply hire if the person can get to town before the first bus gets in. We're a breakfast place and need people who can start at 6 or 7 a.m. That's a big hiring problem for us.
Do you provide service to all of Southeast Alaska?
Sure. We've had wholesale accounts in Sitka, Haines, Tenakee and Skagway over the years. Because our products are all natural they don't have an extended shelf life. This can be an issue if the shipment duration is long.
Do you provide web sales?
We are at the point where approximately two-thirds of our hotel bookings are online. I dream of an ecommerce site to be able to sell our really funky tee shirts and novelties, but I haven't had the time yet.
What are your biggest triumphs?
Not going bankrupt - yet. It was looming a few times. But seriously, one of our biggest accomplishments was in 2007, when we put an addition on our building and doubled the number of hotel rooms. It also gave us more room for our growing family.
What are your most common hurdles?
Shipping is an issue for sure. when machines break and you have to pay to expedite materials. We also struggle with hiring skilled help.
What work practices do you try and maintain in order to serve the community the best that you can?
I think we continuously strive to make fresh, yummy and wholesome food. The kind of stuff I would want to feed my kids. We try to be family-friendly and affordable.
What might encourage local residents to visit your business, rather than ordering something from a non-local business?
If they are looking for good food that's not cookie cutter or full or preservatives, if they are interested in fresh, high quality baked goods, I hope they'll find us.
What are your favorite things about your business?
I love that my commute is a flight of stairs. I love that my kids are growing up in our business and will see what it takes to run a community business and I hope that when they get older they choose to work here. My eight-year old son bussed tables last summer in our restaurant for an hour a day.
Are there any interesting facts or information that the community might not know about your business?
My husband and I went into business together before we were married. Looking back, that was really crazy, but we were young and adventurous. We have an 8-year old son who attends Harborview and is active in every sport possible. We also have 20-month old twin girls. We feel very fortunate.
The Silverbow is actually the oldest bakery in Alaska. The Messerschmidt family built this building in 1902 and it was in their family for generations. Over the years it was known as both the "San Francisco Bakery" and the "Purity Bakery."
Where do you see your business in 5, 10 years?
I would like to expand our hotel. I think we've developed a great formula for our boutique hotel that people who stay here really enjoy. We love the visitors who choose to visit and we love showing off what we love about living here.
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