New owners expand airport terminal coffee shop
Homer parents of young children may remember the Great Easter Jellybean Famine of 2017. A week before Easter, not a jellybean was to be found; Easter shelves in all of the usual haunts were strangely empty of this holiday staple. Not even E. Bunny could have convinced his distributors to cough up a few hundred of the coveted colorful orbs.
Who knew that this situation would be the catalyst for Heather Temple and Amanda Moran to purchase a coffee and gift shop? The new co-owners of Flying Whale Coffee at the Homer airport terminal were saddened and frustrated by the jelly bean jinx. "Sometimes it's heartbreaking when you can't access an item on time in Homer, and it's often hard to travel to shop," said Moran.
Temple, a skilled finder-of-good-deals, crafts person and artist, had been thinking of bringing more goods to Homer for a while. "I know how to shop! I often come across a good buy and want to pass it on to folks in Homer, to provide another shopping option at reasonable prices, and to supplement seasonal/holiday offerings - like maybe even some costumes for Halloween and additional gift items and toys for Christmas and other holidays."
A veteran of arts and crafts fairs, Temple had been considering setting up shop in her father's old bus. Instead when the opportunity to purchase the coffee shop came up in May 2017, the women partnered up and made the purchase.
Local Dan Lush, also known as the Kettle Corn vendor at the Nutcracker Faire, launched the coffee stand, Flying Whale Coffee, in early 2016, providing travelers with a non-vending-machine tasty coffee option. The business name came from his daughter's almost-late, quickly-created, multi-layered cardboard whale sculpture, a school art project that hung for a time in KBay Coffee, and is now center stage at the airport shop.
The owners both work full-time at South Peninsula Hospital; Amanda as housekeeper in the OR and Heather as a nurse in both Labor and Delivery and Acute Care. With this busy schedule, they have drafted their teenage kids, cousins, boyfriends and husbands as backup team for summer hours and nights.
Coffee shop with gifts, or gift shop that serves coffee?
It's hard to say, according to the owners. The expanded gift section and Alaska apparel bring lots of attention and sales to the shop, and the welcome aromas of brewing Coho coffee draw in tired travelers needing a boost.
On the shopper side of things, take-home gifts of Alaskana tempt the tourists, while offerings from local artists interest both locals and travelers. One-third of the inventory is locally made, and three quarters is Alaska made. Both owners contribute crafts of their own making.
"We are working out all kinds of specials on both gifts and specials for the winter," said Temple. "Our coffee cards offer a first drink 25 percent off, 11th cup free. And, we want to remind people that they don't have to take time to stop off for coffee on the way to the airport. We are here for your convenience. One practical set of items we carry brings smiles to those in need — electronics chargers and cables! Our inventory will be changing frequently, so stop by for a look now and then."
Eventually, the duo plans to offer soup and fresh sandwiches, but meanwhile there are convenience foods to tame a hungry tummy. "Just ask local cab drivers, especially after other local shops close down." Current fare includes smoothies and milkshakes, bagels and cream cheese, croissant and egg sandwiches, cup of soup, burritos and other convenience-store style foodstuffs. For aficionados, they even offer Girl Scout cookies. Temple's daughter was top in pre-sales of the cookies for the State of Alaska this year.
Alaska stickers from local artists are a tourist favorite. From all the fun sticker possibilities, for this writer it was a toss-up between: "I Fish. What's Your Super Power?" and "Alaska Bad Girls - Tougher Than You Think!"
Other local artists' and artisans' wares include watercolor cards, wood block print reproductions, wood-crafted wine stoppers, jewelry, art prints, photography, birch syrup, hand-crafted soaps, carved ivory, Alaska-themed stuffed animals and blown glass.
Artist Donna Martin said, "I like the fact that the shop is offering items ranging from beautiful art work to T-shirts."
"We have had a really positive response from the community, Moran said. "The gifts are a real improvement; we get lots of compliments about our reasonable prices. And, people are thankful for real coffee, especially during flight delays. If night delays occur, the shop stays open to accommodate travelers."
Shop hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.