Thursday, November 17, 2016

November & December 2016

Wow. This is what I get for going on a two week family trip to the Southwest at the end of October.

It seems utterly impossible to keep up, especially when my main office computer decided to go "kaput", 60 people jumped on the Groupon offer in three days to join our bakery delivery program, Thanksgiving is upon us in a week, and brussel sprouts are coming out our ears! There is some kind of false impression that things slow down around here in the winter. And yet, I think it's also what keeps me going through the darkest time of year. It's all a grand coping mechanism: keeping things positive and moving forward in the world by being busy all the time. When that busy-ness is mostly about producing wonderful food and baked goods and coordinating it's successful connection with the people who consume it, I think it's all worthwhile! There are many opportunities for you to connect with Flying Squirrel's goodness before the end of the year....

Thanksgiving Orders
We are happy to offer homemade pies, cranberry sauce, dinner breads and croutons for stuffing to help with your Thanksgiving dinner fixins. Our desserts are delicious, unique and beautiful including Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake, Rustic Apple, Mocha Pecan and Pumpkin Rum Cake. Order by THIS Sunday, November 20 and pick up on Wednesday, November 23. We all have many things to be thankful for...

PTA Holiday Craft Bazaar and Silent Auction
Every year we make donations for various Talkeetna fundraisers. This is one of the best! Come by the Talkeetna Elementary School on Saturday, December 3 for holiday shopping (including our family's delicious assortment of canned goods and Squirrel stocking stuffers). We will also have a gift basket and gift certificate in the silent auction proceeds from which benefit 4th & 5th grade students (including my own son) going on a week long environmental education field trip to Kachemak Bay in April!

Taste of Talkeetna
Tickets go on sale this week for this annual fun event on Saturday, December 10 from 4-8pm. Flying Squirrel is one of seven restaurants participating this year. Get your tickets from the Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce, they usually sell out!

Bakery Delivery Program
Flying Squirrel fans that live in Anchorage, Eagle River and Willow are welcome to join our delivery program any time which brings a package of fresh baked bread or goodies to a convenient location in these communities every other Thursday from November through April. Lots more information is available at this link where you can sign up and pay as well as choose the delivery dates that work best for you.

Art Shows
This month's artwork by multimedia Cantwell artist Eleaca Young is colorful and uplifting. Come by to have a look or purchase a holiday gift for someone you love - or yourself. Her work will be on display until early December. Local photographer Jake Graupman will display his photos in December and January. The opening reception will be held Saturday, December 10 from 3-5pm.

Gingerbread House Workshops!
Design, build and decorate your very own gingerbread house. This two part class is open to families and groups of friends up to 4 people per house. On the first Sunday, December 13, 2-3:30pm, groups will choose a house design, roll out and bake all the pieces. On Sunday, December 20, 2-4pm, we'll supply icing and candy and instruction for decorating. Houses will be on display at Flying Squirrel during the week before Christmas. Preregistration is required. For more details and to sign up, call or stop by the Squirrel.

Hanukah Party
I'm feeling motivated to enjoy all kinds of celebrations this year and to celebrate diversity. It's a few days before the actual holiday starts, but we're going to hold an informal Hanukah Party on Thursday, December 22 at 4pm. Learn the story of perseverance and restoration, hear songs, and play the dreidel game. Traditional potato latkes will be available for purchase. All are welcome!

Holiday Hours
Thanksgiving Week
    WEDNESDAY, November 16: 8:00am-5:00pm (holiday order pick up 1-5pm)
    THURSDAY, November 17: CLOSED - Happy Thanksgiving
    FRIDAY, November 18: noon-9:00pm (Pizza: 4-9 pm)
    SATURDAY, November 19: 10am-9:00pm (Pizza: 4-9 pm)
    SUNDAY, November 20: 10am-4pm
End of December
    THURSDAY, December 22: 8:00am-5:00pm - Join us for a Hanukah Party at 4pm
    FRIDAY, December 23: 8am-9:00pm (Pizza: 4-9 pm)
    SATURDAY, December 24: 10am-9:00pm (Pizza: 4-9 pm) - Christmas order pick up after 2pm
    SUNDAY, December 25: CLOSED - Merry Christmas
    MONDAY & TUESDAY: Closed
    WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY, December 28 & 29: 10:00am-5:00pm
    FRIDAY, December 30: 10am-9:00pm (Pizza: 4-9 pm)
    SATURDAY, December 31: 10am-9:00pm (Pizza: 4-9 pm)
    SUNDAY, January 1: CLOSED - Happy New Year!
    MONDAY & TUESDAY: Closed
Stay warm...and busy!
Anita Continue reading »

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Autumn News - September 2016

Autumn?!? Really?!?! I hear that some lower 48 folks still have 100 degree temps! Early September definitely has that autumn feel here in Talkeetna though. Clear and crisp in the morning, some great Northern Lights and star gazing, yellow birch leaves dropping here and there, fireweed that just looks tired - kind of like everyone in Talkeetna! I like to say "the end is near", not because I'm a doomsday kind of person, but because when the travelers not longer come in droves, and school goes into full swing, we are really ready for the slower pace! I can't thank the fabulous Squirrel summer crew enough for all their hard work and dedication: Sierra, Rachel, Kaila, Angela, Kimmie, Isaiah, Raina, and Lily, as well as those that left us early for one reason or another: Bre, Haley, Jasmine and Michael.

But wait! The end of tourist season may be near, but the Squirrel goes on! We're open all winter and in addition to our regular tasty food, pastries, bread, coffee and pizza, we have many other fantastic reasons for you to walk in the doors coming up this fall!

Saturday, September 10
BUN-to-BUN! Still time to join this fun annual running race! Choose marathon or half marathon on trails, or 5K on the bike path, from Flying Squirrel into Talkeetna town. Our parking lot will be crazy for a few hours, so please, if you are participating, consider parking at NSI and take the shuttle to the Squirrel. This is an important fundraiser for the Talkeetna Elementary PTA, and this year it's supposed to be sunny! Register online or in person on the day of the event.

Saturday, September 10, 3-5pm
Textures, Layers & Colors, Oh My! Sonya Bitz, from Cantwell, will show her paintings at the Squirrel with an opening reception on Saturday, September 10 from 3-5. The paintings will be on display through early October. Then, October will bring an online auction/fundraiser for Northern Susitna Institute - stay tuned for more info!

Thursday, September 22, 11:45am
Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce General Membership Meeting at the Squirrel

Thursday, October 6, 6:30pm
Cider Tasting and Farm to Table Dinner

We're pairing up with Specialty Imports again to present a limited seating autumn dinner and cider tasting! This event is likely to sell out, so call to reserve your table early. The fixed price dinner will include a gourmet 4 course menu featuring as many Alaska (and Talkeetna) Grown ingredients as we can muster. Each course will be paired with one or two hard ciders from California, Washington, Michigan and Great Britain with 7 different ciders to try. You might be surprised at the variety of flavors and the range of sweet-to-tartness! These intimate and creative dinners have been a big hit - we're excited to wine (or cider) and dine you at the Squirrel.

Winter Deliveries to Willow, Eagle River and Anchorage
As soon as we gear down from summer, it's time to gear up for winter! The bakery delivery program will likely be up and running again from November through April. For those who have participated before, you'll get more info by email soon. For Squirrel fans that just can't wait until the next trip up to Talkeetna, we hope you'll consider this great program - prepay for bread and/or pastry deliveries that are then brought every other week to a convenient location in Willow, Eagle River and Anchorage! Ask for more information by contacting us by email!

Changes to Hours of Operation
Summer hours will end on September 12. Our winter hours beginning September 13 are:
Sunday 10am-4pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Wednesday 8am-5pm
Thursday 8am-5pm
Friday 8am-9pm, Wood Fired Pizza 4-9pm
Saturday 8am-9pm, Wood Fired Pizza 4-9pm

There are a few more weeks of Brian's Talkeetna farm stand at NSI on Saturdays. After that, look for remaining fresh veggies at the Squirrel - usually cabbages, kale and potatoes well into December!

Anita Continue reading »

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happenings at the Squirrel and Lots of 'Em!

Hello friends and fans!

It's been awhile since I sent out an update. Not because there's nothing going on! Well, you know: business, family, life, sleep, paperwork... But so much happens in May, that I am just bursting like the spruce tips and birch buds to tell you all about it.

Speaking of spruce tips, we have a delicious Honey Cream Spruce Tip Ale from Kenai River Brewing Company on tap right now. And speaking of trees leafing out, right out our front door amid the spruce tips and birch buds in this picture, a little least weasel was hanging out a few days ago. Penny, our family dog chased it up the tree and sat for hours waiting for it to come down. If you see Penny and our new puppy, Ida visiting at the Squirrel, please DON'T FEED THEM - don't even give them dog treats! It's very important that our dogs learn not to beg from cars in the parking lot and we don't want them to get fat!

Mother's Day Brunch
Sunday, May 8, 11am-3pm
Join us for another extravagant (yet kid friendly) full service brunch. Guaranteed, a mother in your life deserves it! Call the Squirrel this week to reserve a table. For $26, enjoy coffee, tea or juice, a fancy drink such as a special sparkling wine or wine spritzer, mocha, etc, choose from 5 special brunch entrees and 3 special desserts!
Mom's who get the brunch may also participate in a 10 minute mini yoga and relaxation session with former Squirrel employee extraordinaire, Kelly Thomas. Kids brunch menu available: $12 for children under 12. Advance reservation highly recommended, please call 733-6887!
Art Shows
Stacie Smiley's paintings are bright, thoughtful and unique; her show will be up at the Squirrel until May 12 and I can't recommend enough for everyone to come and have a look. Next, join long time Talkeetna resident, Rose Jenne on Saturday, May 14 from 3-5pm for the opening of her second (annual?) mosaic show. We will be unveiling an amazing table she created for the Squirrel, and her mosaics, whether whimsical or artistic are always a big hit. The show will be on display until June 9.

Toward a Living Wage

Higher wages mean higher prices. It's pretty much that simple. But I hope you will read on to learn more about my thoughts, research and changes at the Squirrel regarding this issue:

Many of you know that the biggest challenge in any small business is finding and keeping good employees. A seasonal tourist town with many summer opportunities makes those challenges more intense and dramatic. As well, minimum wage is on the rise all over the country including in Alaska where traditional waitstaff are also required to make minimum wage (unlike other states that have a special lower wage for waitstaff who make tips). Talkeetna's summer boom creates competition for employees with many local businesses even bringing in workers from Europe on J-1 visas.

Teachers (!), social workers, agricultural workers, and, yes, restaurant workers are considered the most underpaid professions in the U.S. In restaurants, reliance on tipping, for front of house folks produces difficult staff dynamics; discrimination and sexual harassment are widespread; tipping creates consistent inequity between front and back of house employees; and ultimately, tipping is unreliable, depending on varying levels of busy-ness and the random moods and whims of customers. Here's a recent article from the Washington Post: I dare you to read this and still feel good about tipping.

I hope people all over the US are thinking about the true costs of every purchase, from the sources of ingredients and materials, to the environmental cost of significant transportation of goods, to the hard work and love that goes into each thing you buy from a small business, to the incredible challenge small business owners and their employees have to find health insurance, pay for car repairs, or send a child to music lessons. Supporting small local businesses is key (not just during the holidays)!

Meanwhile, all of this is even trickier for a small volume, small town, bakery cafe. Here's the bottom line. I want the Squirrel to put out great food and great service, great atmosphere and great value. And, I want to come to work and have 3 (in winter) or 12 (in summer) happy, hard working, satisfied, motivated, friendly, enthusiastic employees. The number one factor in achieving all of those goals is being able to pay all of my employees a better wage. The living wage for a single adult in the Mat Su Borough is about $11 an hour. Really? Could YOU live on $11 an hour? For a single adult with a child, it's almost $24/hour! It is my sincere hope that this little bakery can work toward a living wage for all employees (including myself by the way).

So, here's the plan. All employees over 18 are now making $11 to $15 an hour depending on their duties, experience, longevity and level of responsibility. This is compared with $9 to $12 two years ago. I hope that timely raises from the boss (instead of tips from customers) will reflect excellent performance, attendance, efficiency AND customer service. In order to do this, many prices will be going up an average of about 20% over the next few weeks. And, you know, $12 an hour still isn't a lot of money, for a skilled barista or an apprentice baker, so we're not removing the tip jar, yet. We'll still leave it up to you. Except, when we roll out the red carpet for special, full service meals, an automatic hospitality charge of 18% will be added enabling fairly distributed reward for so much extra effort from every worker contributing to your enjoyment of a special meal. Here's another great article from the New York Times: As Minimum Wages Rises...

We will continue to offer our FOUR local "in-the-know" discounts: prepay credit, arriving by non-motorized means, bring your own to-go packaging or travel mug, and bread punch cards. Just ask at the counter to find out about these great ways to save at the Squirrel!

I would be happy to discuss these changes and my evolving philosophy and sincerely hope that any customers struggling with the changes will approach me! It's all a grand experiment and surely will continue to evolve, but I am ecstatic that the Squirrel can stand at the front of these changes that are happening all over the US, even in Alaska. We are excited for a bountiful summer with delicious artisan breads, delightful pastries, tasty beverages, creative wood fired pizzas and so much more. It all happens because you come in the door and because employees feel like they get what they deserve for their efforts. Sorry to be so lengthy - I have been thinking about all this for over a year and am happy to finally be sharing.

New Staff!
So, speaking of hard working, enthusiastic employees... Welcome, to a raft of new faces: Kaila and Kimmie (returning!), Bre, Haley, Angela, and Michael in May. Then Raina and Lily in June. And likely one or two more! Sierra, Rachel and myself are relieved and excited for all the extra hands. If you're a regular, feel free to give them all pointers for fun things to do while they're here, have a little extra patience as they learn the ropes, and help them remember your name!

Eight Days a Week
I lo-uh-uh-uh-ove you. Eight days a week, is not enough to show I care. OK. Enough Beatles. We WON'T be open eight days a week, even though that would be a great way to show some serious customer appreciation. But this year, I'm resolved and determined to bring delicious Squirrel food and woodsy, artsy atmosphere to residents and visitors every day from mid May to mid September!

Summer Hours Starting May 15
Sunday: 8am-5pm
Monday: 7:30am-6pm
Tuesday: 7:30am-6pm
Wednesday: 7:30am-6pm
Thursday: 7:30am-9pm
Friday: 7:30am-9pm
Saturday: 7:30am-9pm
Wood Fired Pizza Nights:
Thursday, Friday and Saturday 4-9pm

Here's to a beautiful summer!

Onward and upward,
Anita Continue reading »