Parks' Chugiak coffee shop
Justine and Cloyce Parks staked out the first five-acre, small-tract homesite in the Chugiak-Eagle River area just south of Peters Creek in 1945. They had come from their home in Nebraska before World War II, when Cloyce was offered a one-year assignment with the Corps of Engineers. At that time the couple had two teenage children, daughter Virginia and a son, Jim.
They opened the Chugiak Coffee Shop in 1947, built from the largest trees they could find along Peters Creek near their homesite. According to an article in the Knik Arm Courier by Les Fetrow, the coffee shop was a large log building built against the cut-out bank. The interior was peeled and oiled logs, with slabs carrying out the rustic appearance in the counter. There was a large single spruce log that ran the length of the building for a ridge-pole. Visitors would examine this pole with calculating eyes and finally ask how such a large pole got there. Cloyce Parks would answer, “That pole came from a big spruce that grew on the bank back of the coffee shop. When we were ready for it, we just cut it down and it fell in place!”
In addition to doing all the baking for the coffee shop, Justine made little individual pecan pies to sell at the Swanks’ depot that was located at the corner of 4th and C Street in Anchorage. She was credited with being the spark plug that brought electricity to Eagle River in the early 1950s.
When the land was first opened to homesteading, there was only the Briggs hog ranch, Nyberg’s yellow house, Fire Lake Roadhouse, an empty cabin at Mile 18.5 and a roofless cabin at Mile 18, according to Justine.
Parks’ lunch room became the community center, since it was the largest available place to meet. Besides, almost everyone stopped there for one reason or another, perhaps only for a cup of coffee. It soon expanded to include a gas station, grocery store and a candy shop. The complex became known as Parksville and was located where Klondike Concrete is now. The Old Glenn Highway was then known as the Palmer Highway.
Justine Parks died in an auto accident in 1994 at age 92, and Cloyce died at age 99 in 2001. The coffee shop burned down around 1953.
* Compiled from the following sources: “Chugiak is Fifteen,” by Les Fetrow, Knik Arm Courier, 1962; Letter from Virgina “Sparky” Parks VanMatre; and the Chugiak-Eagle River Star, Dec. 1994.