Kodiak’s wholesale store, Cost Savers, was sold last week to the Native Village of Afognak and the Sun’aq Tribe. The joint venture was announced in a press release on Oct. 12. It’s the latest move in improving food security on the island.
The deal was in the works for about two months before it was announced. The Native Village of Afognak is the new majority owner of the store with 55%, which will still be called Cost Savers. They’ve partnered with the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak for the purchase who owns the other 45%.
“I just think it’s a great partnership – it’s time for our tribes to collaborate and work together,” said JJ Marsh, the Tribal Administrator for the Sun’aq Tribe.
Candace Branson is the Tribal Administrator for the Native Village of Afognak. She said they initially wanted to buy just an empty lot near the store to expand the village’s farm programs, but ended up buying the store as well.
“After some contemplation and looking at the financials and thinking about the impact that it would have to run our own grocery operation like that, and the impact on food security, that it could have, and on our bottom line,” she said.
Branson said for now, staff are looking at filling open positions and overall, maintaining the status quo.
“We are looking at just stabilization for the next year and a half – two years and then we’ll start on the development,” she said. “But we’ve got some time to build a good plan and make sure that we have everything in order before we start.”
Marsh said this is the Sun’aq Tribe’s latest step in diversifying its investment portfolio.
“We are trying to find ways to sustain our tribes in the future, especially with food security and putting our people to work also,” she said. “So we discussed it and met and decided. Our Tribal Council and the Native Village of Afognak’s Tribal Council thought that it would be a good partnership.”
But buying Cost Savers isn’t the only part of a new joint business venture. The Native Village of Afognak co-operates Mal’uk Farms with the Tangirnaq Native Village, which is one of six tribally-owned farms on the island.
Branson said they hope to have locally grown produce on shelves in the next few years.
“We’re going to keep using the system we’re using for now and as we develop comfort in managing the store and are able to expand out to include our farms,” she said.
The Sun’aq Tribe also owns Kodiak Island Wildsource, a seafood processing business. Marsh said it’s still too early in the process to sell its products in the store, but patrons could see local seafood in freezers there in the next six months.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misspelled Candace Branson’s name as Candice.