Story last updated at 8/21/2013 - 3:31 pm
Tracy LaBarge, the owner of Tracy's King Crab Shack, had one simple plan when she started the business in 2006: Do one thing and do it well.
That one item, king crab legs, has expanded to a small handful of offerings, but LaBarge's principle is the same. Keep things simple; keep the quality high and the service good.
LaBarge's "shack" is located in the line of food vendors that spring up each season behind Juneau's Downtown Public Library. She's branched out from crab legs to crab bisque, (a self-created recipe), and crab cakes. She added spot prawns and Alaskan Weathervane scallops to her menu last summer. All her seafood is sourced in state.
As the menu developed, so did her shack; it's gone through three series of expansions. Even during the beginning of the recession her business has grown every year. LaBarge credits it to the genuine quality of her food and staff.
"I want to offer a taste of Alaska to visitors, something that wasn't super touristy," LaBarge said. "I wanted to keep it personal and talk to people about Alaska; that's the premise of it: really good customer service, keep it personal and serve quality food, which we stand by 100 percent. We either make it right or refund them."
LaBarge has 25 seasonal employees for this season most of them are part time.
"I try to get people who are familiar with the fishing industry who have good customer service skills as a priority," LaBarge said. "Obviously, some kitchen experience helps. I have a lot of returning employees. It's a pretty fun job. Its outside, it's actually fun.
LaBarge's products are available year-round, at a couple in state locations, (10th and M Seafoods in Anchorage and at Jerry's Meats in Juneau, and the 9th Street Café in the Federal Building), as well as online. Taku Smokeries, out of Juneau, and Lobster Gram, of Chicago, (after the president of the company happened to visit her shack on a trip), both sell her products from their websites. Icy Strait Point in Hoonah offers the bisque in the summer.
Regarding her business' triumphs, LaBarge listed an appearance on the Food Network's "Top Chef" reality cooking show as well as being featured in "Maxim" and "Food and Wine" magazines. She also recently acquired McGivney's Sports Bar and Grill in the Mendenhall Valley, where she will sell some of her popular products once the kitchen expansion is finished.
"We try to have a good time," LaBarge said. "It's high pressure and high stress when we're really busy but we keep it together and try and do good, the best we can do. The tourists we get are pretty open-minded if they're coming to a shack on a dock. They're usually pretty fun."
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