The ferry worker’s strike began just a day before the Southeast Alaska State Fair. That stranded some fair-goers and vendors with cars and food trucks. For one soft pretzel vendor from Juneau, the ferry strike was profitable twist of fate.
Hot, salty pretzels and some cash exchange hands on Main Street. Chris Peterson of Peterson’s Pretzels just sold out for the third time today. It’s a quarter after one on a weekday in Haines, but he says he’s sold as many pretzels as on a busy Juneau Saturday.
“We are just ecstatic at the response,” he said.
He’s frantically rolling out spongy pretzel dough and wrapping it around beef franks for pretzel dogs. There’s been a line down the block all day.
“I’ve never done this by myself before,” he says with a laugh.
“Usually this is a three person show.”
Peterson is parked next to Miles furniture on Main Street and he’ll be in town until mid-August. The original plan was to return to Juneau after the Southeast Alaska State Fair, but with no ferries running, he and his truck are stuck in Haines. His family went back to Juneau to prepare for his daughter’s wedding this weekend.
So in between rapid passes with a rolling pin, he gulps en energy drink, checks on dough proofing in his oven, and shouts time estimates to the hungry folks who cluster outside his food truck.
“So I’ll make about sixteen pretzel dogs this time. Actually, I should probably make twenty-four. What do you think?” he asks.
He opts for twenty-four.
Peterson got an extension on his temporary business license from the borough, due to extenuating circumstances. And the Bradford family who owns Miles Furniture, hooked him up on their lot. Peterson says he’s grateful for the support. Since business is going so well, he’s considering opening up another pretzel truck here.
But for other local businesses, the disruption in ferry service isn’t helping the bottom line.
“It’s very, very disruptive, to say the least,” said Robert Venables, the Executive Director of the Southeast Conference, an economic development group for the region.
“And very costly. Some of those funds will stay in the local economy, but distributed differently. It’s definitely having an effect on people’s plans.”
Distributed differently is right. What seemed like bad luck—a strike on the weekend of the Fair— happened to be good luck for Peterson. Alaska Seaplanes felt a benefit, too. They ran nearly thirty flights between Juneau and Haines on Sunday a.lone and continue to offer about double the flights on many routes.
But Southeast Alaska State Fair is estimating a ten percent decrease in tickets, not to mention the added cost of flying in musicians. They also offered refunds to those who couldn’t make it due to the strike, though only a handful of people have cashed in on the offer. Venables is especially concerned that the ferry system’s lost revenue during the strike may translate to lost service over winter.
But on Main Street, Peterson is still selling out of soft pretzels.
“It’s fun!” Peterson laughs as he boils water for the next batch of pretzel dogs.
He will be in Juneau this weekend for his daughter’s wedding, but he’s flying back to Haines on Sunday night, so he can open up again on Monday morning.