I always thought it was an insult to be called a Cheechako. I guess I was wrong.
Suffice it so say, I was very surprised and honored to receive this year's Cheechako Award from the Mat Su CVB. Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce board member, Kathy Stoltz had hinted that I might want to try to come to the Annual Meeting held yesterday on Friday, December 19, and she stopped in the day after the meeting with the award and a copy of the humbling speech that was presented during the awards ceremony. I truly appreciate the recognition - especially at this challenging time of year for all Talkeetna businesses!
Although I have never seen the Flying Squirrel specifically as a tourist business, I am tickled every time a visitor to Talkeetna either stumbles upon our little cafe in the woods or is told not to miss it (literally and figuratively) by someone they've talked to in Talkeetna, Wasilla or Anchorage.
Taking the leap to open a small business in a small town, especially a food service business, involves so much risk and sacrifice. This award is, well, validating in it's formality and it's intent. Someone besides my sister actually stood up in front of a bunch of people and said, "Wow. Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe in Talkeetna. Great idea. Go there!" Thanks to Justin at Mat Su CVB for his persistent, friendly and personal salesmanship that persuaded me to become a member just a few months ago! I am sure there are many other new businesses in the Mat Su Borough that are equally deserving of this award for following their own dreams and taking the same leap my family and I did over a year ago. Today, it sure feels worth it. Let me also say simply that this award honors me as an individual, but more so the Squirrel as a business. It might have been my crazy idea to begin with, but I could not and would not be doing it without the unbelievable help and support of the staff and my family.
In my short ten years as an Alaska resident, in my even shorter year and a half as an Alaska business owner, and in my only days-old status as Cheechako Award winner, I can't help but wonder when the term cheechako will no longer be the moniker I wear (now with some pride). Most likely, it's one that melts away like winter snow with hopes for an "easy break-up."
Following is the very nice speech that was read at the awards ceremony, in case you're interested:
This year's Cheechako Award goes to one of our new members in Talkeetna. Nobody is arguing the fact that Talkeetna has it all. But about a year and a half ago somebody looked at our bustling community and found a unique way to fit in.
It's no secret that good cooking draws a crowd faster than a moose standing in the holiday line at the post office, and this person has culinary skill in abundance. Just see for yourself. As an ace of social media, she shares pictures on Facebook of her tantalizing gourmet masterpieces from her own wood fired oven. You can almost smell the flavor ... almost ...
To really get a nose-full you absolutely must stop by and experience the full effect in person. From the moment you step off of her hiking trails and into her bakery you are greeted by the warm aroma of fresh bread. The variety of delicious, healthy foods from her kitchen will keep you coming back again and again.
Besides, you have to come back to see which local artist is featured on her walls each month. And don't forget to bring the kids out to her Christmas Gingerbread House class! Clearly, this person's involvement in the community has made her a true asset to Talkeetna. She has done a fantastic job in her first year of business and we wish her continuing success into the future. It is my honor to present this award to the proprietor of the Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe, Anita Golton.
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