Tiny Alaskan Town Grocer Hailed as Hero For Sailing to Costco For Groceries in 14-Hour Round Trip


COVID-19 is impacting grocery store supply chains in both big cities and rural communities across the country, but for the icy Alaskan seaside town of Gustavus — seven hours from Juneau — the disruption is a much more serious matter. In late April, Toshua Parker, the town’s grocer, set off from Gustavus in a small barge for the world’s most remote Costco warehouse, where he loaded pallets containing $20,000 worth of eggs, flour, meat, canned goods, produce, and — of course — toilet paper. For the lone grocer, it’s what’s required to run his small store called Ice Strait Wholesale — fondly known as “Toshco” — which keeps his 446 neighbors fed. There are no roads to bring  supplies by truck or car into the town, so the only way in or out is by plane or boat. Parker can’t even reward himself by marking up prices to make up for his time and labor. Prices are already high, with a dozen eggs at Toshco costing $7.99, which leaves just $3.50 to cover the cost of Parker’s barge maintenance, labor, refrigeration, planning and gasoline. It’s the ultimate challenge for a grocer, who must shift an enormous amount of stock for notoriously slim profit margins. Still, Parker says he does it because he wants to take care of his neighbors.