By Liza Weisstuch,
Rob Williams Batch
The Nashville Hot Chicken Gift Batch.
In July of 2018, I walked through downtown Juneau, Alaska, with Midgi Moore, who founded and runs Juneau Food Tours. She took me and a handful of other tourists to a smattering of small restaurants, trendy breweries and outdoor waterside vendors selling everything from freshly shucked oysters to provisions like locally pickled kelp. I bought a few items to bring home, which I stockpiled for gifts. All joyfully received in subsequent months, I’m happy to say, by giftees who reported a newfound interest in visiting the 49th state.
This past April, with the pandemic in its nascent stage and Americans blissfully unaware of the devastation ahead, I received an email from Midgi notifying me that she launched a new enterprise: Taste Alaska! The subscription box service operated on the philosophy, “If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you.” The boxes, also available as one-offs, contain a changing inventory of Alaskan food items, like reindeer sausage and smoked salmon. In every mix are visitor guides from different parts of the state and a Native Alaskan Ulu knife.
Taste Alaska! is one of the newer examples of a growing number of companies that act simultaneously as curators, agents and advocates for small artisanal businesses, affording everyone the opportunity to shop like a local, even when they aren’t. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on small businesses. In New York, a report by the Partnership for New York City projected a third of the 230,000 small businesses could close. If ever there was a time to shop independent, this is it.