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Alaskan grocer travels 14 hours by boat to feed his town

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A grocer from Alaska has been dubbed the savior of his small town for not letting his neighbors go hungry amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Toshua Parker, the owner of Icy Strait Wholesale in Gustavus, started loading shipping crates onto a boat to make a weekly 14-hour journey to a Costco in Juneau, 50 miles away, in order to supply his town with groceries.

Parker told the Post he picks up $30,000 worth of “basically everything–like milk, soil, meat” during his weekly voyages to Costco.

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Prior to the outbreak, Parker, 39, received shipments from Costco via Alaska’s ferry system. However, the pandemic, along with severe storms that damaged the city’s dock, caused the ferry to stop operating.

As the ferry system collapsed, Parker said he bought a “96-foot-barge,” out of concerns the town would go hungry.

“Joke in town was, we’ll be the biggest idiots ever or heroes,” Parker said.

An Alaskan grocery from Gustavus has been making 14-hour trips to a food warehouse to ensure his community has food.

An Alaskan grocery from Gustavus has been making 14-hour trips to a food warehouse to ensure his community has food.

Gustavus — which has no roads – began running out of supplies as the town went on lockdown, so Parker spoke with local fisherman and decided to make weekly trips on his “96-foot long converted military landing craft” – and scheduled the trips around tides and weather to Juneau.

“When we get to Juneau, we can’t get off the boat because of restrictions. So a different set of guys bring the supplies to the boat. Our guys load the stuff on the boat, Parker said. Then the staff of 15, turns around and makes the 7-hour voyage back to Gustavus where he uses the supplies to stock his grocery store.

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“The hours make it worth it – you know who you’re serving and you see them everyday,” Parker said about feeding Gustavus.

The businesses owner told the Post things “haven’t been perfect.”

Recently he ordered eggs from Costco in Juneau, and later was told the store had restrictions on eggs per costumer due to an egg shortage, he ended up having “couple of dozen of eggs for the entire town.”

He “didn’t know how long the restrictions would last” and “frantically ordered 800 dozen eggs from Seattle.” A truck was scheduled to pick up the eggs, but then missed the barge. Five days later the eggs arrived in Juneau.

“No eggs for two weeks then to have 1,000 dozen of eggs sitting there for a town of 400 people, incredible.”

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“We are going to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Parker. He is optimistic about the future, admitting he’ll “need to adjust to the new normal.”

“Toshua pretty much saved the town,” Gustavus’ Mayor Casipit said in an interview with Tanks Good News. “I really don’t know what we would’ve done without him.”

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