A weekly supply of produce and meat arrived in Skagway on Tuesday morning spoiled, or mostly unfit for consumption. The food was set to be distributed among the community’s bustling eateries. But a few restaurant owners in town say the foodie community rallied, and managed to feed the crowds of visitors during the town’s busiest tourist week so far this season.
When Lacey Stoutt, the owner of Glacial Smoothies and Espresso in Skagway, heard Tuesday her food shipment was ruined, her first thought was panic.
But, she says, the reality of what happened sank in and everyone – restaurant owners, employees and patrons – pulled together. Skagway style. Stoutt says eateries were trading food to make sure each had what they needed to keep serving wraps, burgers and salads to the masses.
The large shipment of produce and meat started its voyage in Seattle. It was there that someone made the mistake of putting the chilled goods in a freezer compartment, and the frozen goods in the chilled compartment.
The result was a weekly, Tuesday-morning supply of restaurant-bound foods that were no good. Fruits and veggies were frozen and meat was thawed or partially thawed.
“The perfect storm has hit Skagway, Alaska. It couldn’t have happened on a worse week.”
That’s Randy Fiero, the regional supervisor for Food Services of America, the company that supplies Skagway’s restaurants with weekly shipments. He says a human error was made when the shipment was loaded and it wasn’t discovered until it reached Skagway.
“So when it arrived in Skagway and realizing it had shipped in the wrong zones,” he explains. “The chill product that was shipped frozen was a total loss, and the frozen product that was shipped chilled, some of it would have been salvageable. But food safety is our number one concern, so we chose to not let any customer have any of that product.”
Fiero was raised in Skagway, so he says he understands the potential urgency when something happens to the food shipment. He says there were three factors that made this incident the “perfect storm.”
First off, this week is Skagway’s busiest cruise-ship week of the season so far. Also, Monday is a Canadian holiday so the number of visitors from the Yukon will jump, and, finally, the summer schedule of two restaurant- food shipments per week from FSA hasn’t started yet.
“All the restaurants probably went over and cleaned out the grocery store, so you can’t get a head of lettuce,” Fiero says. “So what we have done to take care of our customers – we know the concern, Skagway has three-and-a-half-months of tourism and they’ve gotta get through – we replaced 100 percent of the groceries.”
Fiero says within 20 hours, FSA had a load of food on an Alaska Airlines 737 bound for Juneau, and a tractor trailer loaded with meat and produce on the road to replace all the food that had to be thrown out.
“Hopefully we’re going to be able to replace all the restaurants’ goods by this Friday.”
Jan Wrentmore owns the Red Onion Saloon. She says they were able to utilize food they had stockpiled.
“We were lucky because we had enough product in our freezer to get us through,” she says. “I think if we in another month into the season, it would have been horrible.”
The grocery stores still got their shipments, but restaurants that didn’t, had get some supplies from the local markets.
Shannon Ames works at the Fairway Market. She says they did help supply local cafés, but their shelves aren’t bare. She says it wasn’t disastrous at all.
Fiero wouldn’t say exactly how many pounds of food were lost, but he says, it was a” large amount of northbound freight.” A tough loss, he says.
Back at Glacial Smoothies, Stoutt says they’ve already received part of their replacement shipment. And, she says, without the cooperation of fellow business owners, what could have been a nightmare, was just a minor inconvenience.