Unalaska Local Fills Drive-Through Coffee Void With New Business
Unalaska and Dutch Harbor are known for being a community of hard workers. It's a place where people might spend well over 12 hours a day at their jobs, often in rough conditions. And on an island where the sun doesn't rise until around 9 in the morning for several months out of the year, coffee is essential.
But, Unalaska has very few options for coffee to-go, and no operating drive-through coffee stands.
Enter: Dutch Grind, the island's newest coffee shop. Since Monday morning, Dutch Grind owner and island local Jazzmyne Shapsnikoff has been serving up lattes, mochas, smoothies, breakfast burritos and much more out of the once-vacant coffee stand near Amelia's Restaurant.
"Seeing my hot chocolate with my sticker and design, in [the kids'] hands — and their faces when there's chocolate on it, from their frappes and stuff, it's so satisfying," she said. "I love it."
Shapsnikoff's passion for her community and for coffee is palpable as she talks about her first days of running the business. Even before she actually says it, it's easy to guess that this was a life-long dream of hers.
"I've wanted to open a coffee shop since I was 16 years old," Shapsnikoff said.
As of right now, it's just her and one other employee working at the stand, but they're getting by with help from other local Alaskan businesses, she said.
"I'm having the Norwegian Rat make my breakfast burritos," she said. "That way, I'm supporting another local business, which I really like to do. And the coffee beans that I've got, I'm buying from a friend back home in Wasilla because she does her own roastery."
The days have been long for Shapsnikoff this week. She begins her work day around 5 in the morning at the coffee shop, finishes up there around 5 at night, then heads over to the Rat to tend bar — where she's been working for the past five years. So far though, she said the coffee business has been booming.
"Monday, I started with six jugs of just whole milk, [thinking] we'll be lucky if we go through this," she said. "But, no. By 11 or noon that day, I had to go and get more milk because I was out."
From seeing Instagram posts supporting the business, to getting help with installing new windows or receiving a welded version of her logo as a gift, Shapsnikoff said she has been overwhelmed by the support from locals so far.
"It's been one thing after another from the community, with their advice, their support, sharing my page — my social media blew up because of the love and support," she said.
And she attributes her early success to her roots in the community. While Shapsnikoff refers to Wasilla as "home," she has spent a lot of her time in Unalaska. And she said her dad's family is from the island.
"I lost my dad at a young age," she said. "And so a lot of people root for me with that, too. They're like, 'oh, your dad would be so proud.' And that means a lot. They knew him, so to see me thrive, they thrive off of that."
Shapsnikoff said she hopes to lead by example, and that other young people who have connections to the region will be inspired by her business. She hopes that others see that they are also capable of putting something like this together.
While it's been a lot of work so far getting the coffee shop off the ground, Shapsnikoff said that tireless work ethic is a lifestyle on the island.
"Everyone out here is grinding through the weather, through life," she said. "You're gone from your family for months at a time sometimes, even. You're out here and you're literally grinding."
Right now, she said she's not planning to expand the business, but is focusing on getting things to run as smoothly as possible. She is planning, though, on getting more swag, like sweatshirts and more stickers, as soon as she can.
Dutch Grind is located in front of Amelia's and is open from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.