The New Moon Cafe stands empty, but ready for self-serve “diners” 24 hours a day in the center of Tenakee Springs. Formerly the notorious Rosie’s Blue Moon Cafe where burgers and other fare was long served, it is among the numerous local commercial businesses that have shut down as the community’s population continues to shrink. But residents are trying to make the best of the situation, including keep the cafe stocked with snacks and souvenirs for people hopefully willing to put donations in the jar near the front window. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Searching for the upsides of downsizing | Juneau Empire

Editor’s word: That is the second in a three-part sequence in regards to the ongoing and future challenges dealing with Tenakee Springs and related tiny distant communities in Southeast Alaska. Learn Half 1 right here and Half 3 right here.

The New Moon Cafe is open 24 hours day-after-day and a vacationer glancing at a brochure in a rental cabin subsequent door is likely to be led to imagine the cafe serves “scrumptious burgers and fries, fried rooster or chow mien[sic].” Upon arrival the vacationer learns 1) it’s now a “self-service” eatery and a pair of) whereas not one of the chow within the brochure is on the menu, what meals is within the pantry is free.

Such are the blessings and curses in a group the place the mayor has seen the variety of schoolchildren shrink from 30 to almost none throughout his greater than 30 years right here. A lot of the remainder of different companies within the brochure would should be modified or eliminated, together with the bakery that’s been shut for a number of years and thus left Tenakee Springs with no eating places.

The New Moon Cafe stands empty, however prepared for self-serve “diners” 24 hours a day within the heart of Tenakee Springs. Previously the infamous Rosie’s Blue Moon Cafe the place burgers and different fare was lengthy served, it’s among the many quite a few native industrial companies which have shut down because the group’s inhabitants continues to shrink. However residents are attempting to make the most effective of the scenario, together with hold the cafe stocked with snacks and souvenirs for folks hopefully prepared to place donations within the jar close to the entrance window. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Often called Rosie’s Blue Moon Cafe in its heyday, the New Moon Cafe is a ghost city’s model of a diner with snack-size luggage of chips and cookies, sweet items and self-COVID-19 kits subsequent to a well-fed donation jar within the window. On the counter providing stool seating is a espresso maker, microwave and number of tea luggage and drink mixes.

The commercial-grade kitchen behind the counter nonetheless has meals stocked within the twin fridges, however which may be short-lived because the few volunteers who “handle” the cafe determined this week to disallow “clients” to prepare dinner meals as a result of there’s additionally soiled dishes within the three sinks.

Among the many few folks stopping by early throughout the week was Kevin Allred, 68, a resident for the previous 14 years who reheated a cup of espresso within the microwave. He additionally helped a lady who got here in searching for an area cookbook revealed a few years in the past, wanting via show racks of publications and postcards that, just like the meals, is obtainable at no matter value individuals are prepared to donate.

Multitudes of multitasking residents

Allred, among the many locals whose occupation is “odd jobs” (“a yr in the past I used to be juggling 16”), stated he tries to consider the optimistic facets of Tenakee’s shrinking inhabitants and growing isolation.

“If you happen to don’t have mail, and also you don’t have ferry service how does it have an effect on your group in a great way?” he stated. “A great way is maybe it retains the group small.”

Lately Allred’s odd jobs embrace repairing the Toyo heating methods generally utilized by residents, digging ditches and on today sporting lengthy rubber boots after simply getting back from placing out a halibut line. The multitude of professions additionally proves useful within the nonworking facets of life, resembling when he crafted a mechanical hand from spare components for his son, Flint, when he broke his hand final yr.

“It was only a claw — an alligator claw,” stated the son, who like his dad works a number of jobs together with a comparatively steady part-time gig on the put up workplace.

The tendency to make use of and reuse just about all the pieces in Tenakee is a typical trait for residents, since apart from the shortage of shops and struggles to get outdoors provides there’s no waste facility for trash.

”If there’s an 8-track participant that’s being thrown away I’ll take it aside and pull the rails out of it,” the elder Allred stated.

Terry Kennedy, who co-owns a guest cabin in Tenakee Springs with her husband, inspects a blueberry bush she bought with a federal food insecurity grant. In addition to supplying food for herself and other residents in a town with increasingly few options, Kennedy said she’s hoping to make growing some of her plants an educational activity for the handful of school-age children still living there. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Terry Kennedy, who co-owns a visitor cabin in Tenakee Springs along with her husband, inspects a blueberry bush she purchased with a federal meals insecurity grant. Along with supplying meals for herself and different residents in a city with more and more few choices, Kennedy stated she’s hoping to make rising a few of her crops an academic exercise for the handful of school-age kids nonetheless residing there. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Redrawing the map

The errant brochures have been written a decade in the past by Terry Kennedy, who along with her husband Dan, who’s the mayor, owns the visitor cabin subsequent to the cafe. She stated there hasn’t been any feedback from shocked visitors, although at this level updating the brochures will probably be an intensive course of.

“You’d should redo the map with all of the locations…a bunch of the companies should be modified,” she stated.

The visitor cabin is in some methods remarkably lavish for $85 an evening throughout the peak of tourism season (and the remainder of the yr), together with a full kitchen stocked with meals. However there’s no telephone, TV or web. The brownish faucet water is from the creek, so a number of gallons of nicely water for ingesting are below the sink, and there’s no sizzling water or bathe because the communal bathtub fed by the native sizzling springs is 2 doorways away.

However one of many causes the cabin is affordable in comparison with a lot of lodging in Southeast Alaska is even throughout peak season there’s loads of days when the cabin is vacant. Kennedy stated that past the pandemic of the previous couple of years that decimated tourism in all places, guests staying for a number of nights are more and more uncommon as a result of the ferry now comes solely each different week as a substitute of weekly.

“It was by no means that straightforward earlier than, however it was doable,” she stated.

So she’s discovering different methods to get by and attempting to assist her fellow residents within the course of. She utilized for a $5,000 federal meals insecurity fee, as an example, then spent it on a wide range of fruit bushes and bushes, construction obstacles and a vacuum packer.

“After the blueberry crops are established I need to get the youngsters concerned,” she stated, referring to what are at the moment seven college students in Tenakee who will all be home-schooled this yr since there will not be sufficient to formally open the city’s faculty. She additionally hopes to share her crops with the massive out of doors group backyard on the fringe of city and the greenhouse hooked up to the New Moon Cafe.

The “bus stop” in the center of Tenakee Springs is a drop-off and pickup exchange for clothes, books, kitchen items, building materials and other items, along with one of the many places community notices are posted. Tenakee doesn’t have a waste disposal facility so, with the number of commercial businesses dwindling to near none, making use and reuse of any items is common. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The “bus cease” within the heart of Tenakee Springs is a drop-off and pickup trade for garments, books, kitchen objects, constructing supplies and different objects, together with one of many many locations group notices are posted. Tenakee doesn’t have a waste disposal facility so, with the variety of industrial companies dwindling to close none, making use and reuse of any objects is frequent. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Seasonally smart or egocentric?

Tenakee’s drawback with short-term guests isn’t merely an absence of vacationers — it’s additionally an abundance of seasonal residents who keep for a number of days, weeks or months throughout the yr after which go away their houses empty the remainder of the time. That creates a paradox the place folks inquisitive about transferring to the group to take a number of of the various accessible jobs are unable to take action as a result of they will’t discover housing.

“There’s so much from Juneau who aren’t prepared to hire them out so 90% of the homes are empty throughout the winter,” stated Linnea Lospenosochatel, a Tenakee resident for the previous decade who works as the varsity secretary and for the regional seaplane firm serving the group.

She was serving to a few others make intensive repairs to a at the moment unoccupied house, however as a result of a brown bear broke in via a rear window a few weeks in the past and precipitated intensive injury whereas the occupant was away. The bear additionally precipitated lesser injury to some different houses earlier than locals have been pressured to kill the animal.

In order is commonly the case, the locals are chipping in on the repairs as a substitute of counting on extra standard outdoors assist.

“She’s aged so we’re all serving to her,” Lospenosochatel stated.

Among the many causes for all of the seldom occupied houses is there’s no native property tax, Kevin Allred stated.

“When folks die off there’s no incentive for his or her households to promote their house,” he stated. “There’s fairly a number of rich folks right here who personal second or third houses” and a willingness to hire them out means “there’s at all times the possibility it will get trashed.”

Tenakee Springs Mayor Dan Kennedy, left, stops to pet a dog on Wednesday while driving his ATV along the main road of the 112-person community, where larger motorized vehicles such as cars and trucks are banned except for a couple of vital services. At his right, a resident saws a board while helping repair a home that sustained heavy damage after a bear broke in two weeks ago. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Tenakee Springs Mayor Dan Kennedy, left, stops to pet a canine on Wednesday whereas driving his ATV alongside the primary highway of the 112-person group, the place bigger motorized autos resembling vehicles and vehicles are banned apart from a few very important providers. At his proper, a resident saws a board whereas serving to restore a house that sustained heavy injury after a bear broke in two weeks in the past. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

As this summer time nears its finish even the few current companies are on the brink of reduce since roughly half of the 112 registered residents are prone to keep via the winter. The lone grocery/{hardware}/liquor retailer, as an example, will probably be open solely two hours a day 5 occasions per week as a substitute of day-after-day for 4 hours beginning subsequent week.

However past discovering optimism and alternative within the city’s proverbial rightsizing, some locals are expressing hope the long-term decline will reverse itself in time.

“I believe one thing’s going to interrupt for this city,” Lospenosochatel stated.

Mayor Dan Kennedy isn’t so positive. A self-described reluctant politician speaking a few snowbird existence himself this winter as COVID-19 restrictions proceed to ease, he stated the appreciable lack of youthful residents and households throughout his time right here could also be for causes that may’t be overcome.

“I can see this turning into an actual seasonal city,” he stated, “I believe what a number of seasonal residents don’t know is you want youthful folks to maintain the infrastructure going.”

Whereas Tenakee nonetheless has its well-known sizzling springs, considerable fishing and surroundings, and different parts that traditionally have been lures for residents and guests, that doesn’t assure the group will someway overcome but once more and produce a cheerful ending, the mayor stated.

“Cities do dry up and go away, and I believe that’s a risk,” he stated.

• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at

(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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