Familiar Businesses Changing Hands and Bringing Energy in Hope
By Jeannine Jabaay
In the little Alaska town of Hope, little news can become big news among its 192 year-round residents (significantly more or less, depending on who you ask – so let’s go with the latest census number). And when big news breaks, it can become monumental.
So when the town’s one and only motel and general store was recently sold to Hope’s newest restaurant owners, Steve Thomas and Delaney Sank, it was pretty earth shaking for Hope. Thomas and Sank are newly engaged and already taking on hefty jobs.
“We haven’t assigned ourselves official titles,” says Thomas, “as we tend to wear all the hats at times. Delaney loves focusing on the branding and promotional side of the business, while I love day-to-day operations and event management. Thankfully, our skill sets are extremely compatible, and we love the team we create.”
The town’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs have clearly proven that they know how to run an excellent restaurant. They took a long-standing iconic restaurant, Tito’s Discovery Cafe, that was treasured when owned by Hope’s own Tito and then his niece, Gina Motoyama.
Motoyama hand-picked the couple to take over her family’s business. Thomas and Sank renamed the restaurant to Creekbend Company, rebranding as a fresh, hip, year-round hub of community, music and great food. They brought live bands and private RV camping to town, generating new energy and anticipation.
And now, with the purchase of the general store and motel, the duo is remaking the business formerly known as Alaska Dacha into the renamed Coldwater Lodge & Market.
“The Coldwater Lodge & Market is simply an extension of the greater Creekbend Company,” shares Thomas. “Coldwater and Creekbend will work hand in hand, as sister properties.”
The name Creekbend Company came as a surprise to some who were familiar with the former Tito’s restaurant. It made a statement of more than just a cafe. “One may note that Delaney and I made the calculated decision last year to call the business Creekbend Company, because it was more than any one element. We have the Cafe, we have the Acres – our beautiful concert, event and wedding venue, and now we have Coldwater Lodge & Market.”
Taking on one new business in a year is a giant life-long quest for most. But two businesses in one year? In a town the size of Hope? You have to wonder how they do it all with such excellence.
“We are so excited to have made this acquisition in the off-season,” said Thomas, “as we now have several quieter months to do the renovations and make changes in preparation for the summer. Last year we took over the Tito’s Property only about a week before we opened for the season. What a whirlwind that was!”
So first a restaurant, and now a lodge and market. The question remains as to how the two entities tie together. When asked about the cohesion, Thomas answered, “As Delaney and I operated Creekbend this past summer, we found ourselves constantly yearning for our business to include any element of lodging. Whether we were hosting a group at the Cafe or having a live music event at The Acres out back, we found ourselves needing the ability to lodge visitors. When the opportunity to purchase the Alaska Dacha presented itself, we knew this was the extra element we were looking to add to the Creekbend family.”
It goes without saying that any change in a town as small as Hope, Alaska can make a major impact on those who loved it just the way it was – be it the locals who choose to live there or the visitors who relish the times they’ve been able to spend there. But when change brings a greater sense of community and year-round jobs, it is typically much better received.
“Our two properties will work in tandem, improving both the community experience and the visitor to Hope experience,” Thomas said. “As a whole, Creekbend Company will continue to improve the community and visitor experience in Hope. Access to more and better services for all, and the promoting of more events throughout the year to benefit all businesses in Hope.”
Those are mighty big promises, and yet the dynamic duo have thus shown their capacity for such outcomes.
“We are very excited to announce that Creekbend Cafe will be open year-round moving forward. Hope hasn’t had a restaurant open year-round for many years now,” states Thomas.
Changes are planned for Coldwater to bring it into line with the Creekbend vision. All guest rooms and rentals cabins are being renovated, with each having a full bath, kitchenette and TV/cable to improve the visitor experience.
“We are very excited about the tweaks we are making at Coldwater,” says Thomas. “Although no major changes appear to be happening, our focus is on improving each element of the business already here. The store will have a fresh new appearance, with a wider offering and lower prices.”
Thomas and Sank have a clear direction they are heading with their business plans and their family’s future. Just five minutes with the couple, and one can’t help but feel a strong desire to somehow jump onto their moving train of inspiration.
“Delaney and I remind ourselves often that we have a huge vision for Creekbend Company,” shares Thomas, “and we, therefore, also have a huge to-do list to go along with it. All of our goals and dreams will not happen overnight, maybe not this or next year. However, we can promise that in 2019, Hope will offer the best visitor experience that has ever been offered before.”
Hope is clearly changing and growing, and with it is coming a sense of expectance and vigor. Thomas and Sank are making an impact toward the direction they want to see their locale move.
“The town has an awesome energy right now,” said Thomas, “with more year-round rentals available than ever before and several new businesses or businesses changing hands, providing for a fresh, updated perspective on visiting Hope. We know you’re going to love your stay in Hope!”
19842 Hope HWY, Hope
Coldwater Lodge and Market
19742 Hope HWY, Hope
Check creekbendco.com for current hours of both businesses.
For more information on other year-round businesses in Hope, visit the Hope Chamber of Commerce at HopeAlaska.US.