Going into business
Chugiak Café is entirely a family-run business.
Eagle River’s Tom and Michelle Kimball own the recently opened coffee and boutique shop and their two-person staff is made up of their kids, Jackie and Andrew.
Jackie, a sophomore at UAA, runs the café with her dad weekdays and takes class in the evenings. Andrew, a freshman at Eagle River High, helps out after school.
Michelle, who works full-time on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, cooks breakfast at the café Saturdays and Sundays. The weekend breakfast includes waffles with biscuits and gravy.
Along with all the typical hot caffeinated beverages a café offers — coffee, lattes, mochas — Chugiak Café offers Danish pastries, bagels, muffins and Panini sandwiches for lunch.
The walls of the tiny coffee shop are decorated with Michelle’s handmade wooden crafts, which are for sale.
“It’s all Americana,” Tom said.
Michelle has been making wooden signs, flags and wax teddy bears for nearly a decade, Tom said.
That side of the business is also a team effort.
“I cut the wood and she paints it,” Tom said. “And Andrew carries it,” he quipped.
Tom recently retired from a 28-year career in the Army. One of his retirement plans was to open a coffee shop.
Then fate took over.
When his wife was at the next-door Forget Me Not Cottage Gift Shop, she saw the space was available to rent. Tom visited the location Jan. 7, and a week later he and his wife were business owners.
“It all was so fast,” he said. “Too good to be true.”
Having an equipped facility allowed the Kimballs to open so quickly.
“This was pretty much turnkey and ready to go,” Tom said.
The new family business was nothing new for Jackie, a former Starbucks employee.
But Tom said he’s honing his coffee-making skills quickly.
“Even though I’ve only been making coffee for two weeks, mine is better than Jackie’s,” he joked.
While Tom plans to add soup to the menu, any other changes to the coffee shop will be small.
“We’re keeping it simple,” he said.
Chugiak Café is located at 18575 Old Glenn Highway in Chugiak. It’s open weekdays from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The café offers a discount for military and first responders.