5 Alaska Veteran-Owned Businesses We Think You’ll Love
Veterans Day is almost here, and while some of us might be embracing a welcomed day off, this particular holiday has special meaning for us.
If you're not already familiar with my story, military roots run pretty deep here at WILCO SUPPLY. I’ve seen how hard our nation’s service members work—past and present, in some of the toughest jobs in the world. This year, we're honoring Veterans Day by shining a well-deserving light on a few veteran-owned businesses right here in Alaska, home to WILCO SUPPLY!
Both Kaye Paraoan from our team and I had the honor of serving side-by-side with retired Alaska Army National Guardsman, Derrick Green. Derrick's story behind his business, Waffles and Whatnot, comes from a difficult time when his wife, Shirili, battled cancer. She struggled to keep most foods down, so Derrick started experimenting with different ingredients to find foods she could eat. Waffles ended up being a good base for any recipe Derrick could build. Shirili passed away in 2013, but before she did, she asked Derrick to promise to not give up on his dreams. Today, Waffles and Whatnot can accommodate any dietary restriction, food allergy or individual taste. Derrick's community-minded business even caught the attention of the team at Facebook, and he received a special invitation to become a member of the Facebook Small Business Council.
Waffles and Whatnot has been voted "Best Food Truck in Alaska," and is currently located at 500 Muldoon Road (conveniently close to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson!). My personal favorite is the signature chicken and waffle combo, the "Badass Yard Bird," or BAYB, for short. And for those of you outside of Alaska, you can order hand-packaged, pre-made waffle mixes online! Check out the savory mixes (cornbread, anyone?) as well!
Last month, AK Coffee Co. moved into a new space in midtown Anchorage! They are currently installing equipment and setting up their new home for roasting. Their organic beans are sourced directly from Legacy Farms Coffee in Honduras, and roasted here in Anchorage, for an outstanding brew every time! You can order their coffee and cool swag like this wrap sweater online at akcoffeecompany.com.
It's no surprise that I instantly bonded with Army veteran Maria Ballard over leather bags and military life when we first met! Our booths were across from each other at the Anchorage Downtown Partnership Summer Solstice market last year. Maria hand crafts rustic and minimalist bags, jewelry, key chains and more. Check out her Etsy shop for unique specialty items like this Men's Kodiak Leather Newsie Cap.
The best part about being a member of the military and veteran community is the camaraderie. That's why we didn't hesitate to introduce ourselves to Air Force veteran Matt Worden, owner and guide of Go Hike Alaska - and fellow Visit Anchorage member!
Alaska is famous for its breathtaking views and incredible wildlife. (Think glaciers and mountains serving as a home to moose, bears, bison, whales, bald eagles, puffins, and more!) Our state is effortlessly breathtaking. When highlighting local veteran-owned businesses, I couldn't miss the chance to spotlight Matt and Go Hike Alaska.
Matt is also an Eagle Scout, and is certified by National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Wilderness First Response, First Aid/CPR, Avalanche Safety Level I, and as a Leave No Trace Master Educator. Matt started Go Hike Alaska to showcase the world-class hiking opportunities that lie on the outskirts of Anchorage. He offers tours, navigating the local terrain, leaving you with an unforgettable journey and skill set to embark on many more!
Matt served as a C-5 aircraft maintainer during his eight years in the Air Force. He was stationed in Dover, Delaware, and went on training missions in Turkey and Germany during his service. Matt left Delaware to head to Alaska in 2011 with his partner Brandi - in pursuit of adventure, big mountains, and wildlife!
And of course, our list wouldn't be complete without my husband, Dustin Slinker, founder of The Bait Shack!
Dustin is an Army veteran, Bronze Star awardee and Purple Heart recipient. He served in the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas and 25th Infantry Division here at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. An avid fisherman since age 4, Dustin's dream was to someday own a bait shop. In 2011, he transitioned to civilian life and founded The Bait Shack at Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage. His one-stop-shop offers fishing rentals, guide services, bait (ask for the famous "Creek Candy") and tackle. Beyond Ship Creek, Dustin offers extended rentals to fish other parts of Alaska. When winter approaches, Dustin and his team offer ice fishing adventures in the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna areas.
Today, thousands of people from around the world visit The Bait Shack. Tourists, airline pilots, and seasonal workers frequent this spot every summer. Military service members and veterans are regulars at The Bait Shack, and fishing with Dustin has become part of the Alaska military tradition! Dustin has even been featured on Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, PBS, and in Fine Cooking and Women's Health magazines. He is passionate about giving back to the community, from creating an annual Youth Fishing Day at Ship Creek, to hosting guided fishing trips for active duty service members, and organizing an annual Ship Creek clean-up.
Veterans, along with their spouses and families, are incredible people. I've seen you move mountains. While we're pausing this Veterans Day in honor of your (or your service member’s) service and sacrifices for our country, know that every day, we’re thankful for you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for pushing forward. And thank you for paving the way. We hope you feel supported, encouraged, and honored this Veterans Day.