An Alaskan Man is Making 14-Hour Costco Runs by Boat to Ensure His Town Doesn't Go Hungry

Rebecca Norris
Photo credit: Facebook/Toshua Parker, Toshco
Photo credit: Facebook/Toshua Parker, Toshco

From Country Living

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has affected supply chains worldwide, but for one Alaskan town, stay-at-home restrictions meant a complete cut-off in grocery deliveries.

  • Local grocer Toshua Parker stepped in to ensure his neighbors stay stocked and fed.

As we all know, social distancing and stay-at-home orders have been implemented since mid-March. For most folks, these mandates limit how frequently people can go to the grocery store and other essential businesses that have been allowed to stay open during quarantine, but for one Alaskan town, it’s meant restricted access to food.

Gustavus is a remote seaside town situated in southeastern Alaska. Less than 500 people call the small town home—and, fun fact, moose actually outnumber people there. The town is just 38 square miles and, despite sounding like an idyllic beach escape, is surrounded by the ice fields of Glacier Bay National Park on three sides and the Atlantic Ocean on its fourth side. Since there are no roads to or from the island, it requires all food, supplies, and other goods to be transported by plane or boat. As you might have guessed, this can prove to be challenging on even the most normal day, let alone when a pandemic hits.

Due to the limited access to the island and supply chains being altered as a result of COVID-19, delivery was cut off to the small town during the past couple of months of quarantine. Fortunately, Toshua Parker, a Gustavus resident and grocer, stepped in to remedy the situation.

Since deliveries were cut off in April, Toshua has led his team on a 14-hour voyage every week to ensure Gustavus’ residents don’t go hungry. Each week, Toshua plans a 7-hour sea voyage to Juneau, Alaska, where he uses his Costco card to stock up on $20,000 worth of essentials, including canned goods, eggs, flour, meat (not to mention ammunition to hunt your own), produce, and—you guessed it—toilet paper, as well as personal orders from his neighbors. He then turns around and makes the 7-hour voyage back to Gustavus where he uses the supplies to stock his grocery store, Icy Strait Wholesale (AKA ToshCo). Once stocked, he notifies the town via the store’s Facebook page.

Speaking of the store’s Facebook page, locals are quick to show their appreciation and support. “Thank you Toshua, Cassie, and all the wonderful employees at Toshco that keep Gustavus stocked,” one commenter wrote. “We are fortunate to have such dedicated people keeping us fed and supplied.”

“Toshua pretty much saved the town,” Gustavus’ Mayor Casipit said in an interview with Tanks Good News. “I really don’t know what we would’ve done without him.”

“It’s like Christmas when the load gets here,” Toshua added. “Everyone is waiting for it. Word gets out, and they all seem to know when it’s coming."

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