Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Andy Schaafsma, co-owner of Odie's Deli puts panels up on the outside of the building, Aug. 27, 2015, in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Andy Schaafsma, co-owner of Odie's Deli puts panels up on the outside of the building, Aug. 27, 2015, in Soldotna, Alaska.

Soldotna staple improves storefront

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Thursday, August 27, 2015 9:42pm
  • News

Odie’s Deli is the most recent business to take advantage of Soldotna’s Storefront Improvement Program.

Awnings, paint, shrubbery and new signs will go up this month to beautify the façade of yet another central Kenai Peninsula staple.

Co-owner Megan Schaafsma said the city’s decision to provide its maximum project funding of $7,500 was the deciding factor in moving the project forward.

“It’s a big commitment to the building,” Megan Schaafsma said. “(And) the community as well.”

The Schaafsmas — Megan and her husband Andy along with Andy’s parent’s Sue and Mark — bought the business in 2014. They lease the building from Jose Ramos. Originally, the store was designed as a Wendy’s, then a Burger King operated out of it, Schaafsma said. Weather and time have done some damage. Layers of paint are chipping off outside walls and the layout is less than ideal, she said.

Reviews on Yelp! and Trip Advisor have yielded multiple warnings to summer-time travelers, such as “don’t be scared away by the way it looks,” she said. Last year, right after buying the business, she received an email from a concerned citizen, who wrote, keeping the building the way it is was “irresponsible,” she said.

Applying for the funding was the easy part, Schaafsma said. Deciding how to efficiently rehabilitate the building was the challenge.

As a new and small business owner, it is critical to figure out what changes can be made that “won’t break the bank,” she said.

The Schaafsma’s remodel will total nearly $20,000 out of pocket. The city’s contribution is a huge incentive, and since the details of the current revisions have been determined, other improvements are being planned, including updated logos and other branding, Megan Schaafsma said.

“It is a huge decision, but anybody can see the necessity of it,” she said. “We have to make sure we are being responsible to our city and have a good space and having (a) cleaned up building has a higher level of attraction for people that don’t know us.”

City staff were always available and encouraging throughout the process, Schaafsma said.

They offered planning assistance, including a guide for the heartiest, and easiest, plants to landscape with and maintain for business owners operating in Alaska.

Previous program recipients also report a similar level of attention from the city. Alice Kerkvliet, owner Mykel’s Restaurant and the Soldotna Inn, was able to replace the siding and rails outside her building with the city’s assistance.

“It is a great program,” Kerkvliet said. “I think it helps a lot of businesses in town look a lot fresher.”

The city offered to find an architect to flesh out every possible design concept, which Kerkvliet said was unnecessary at the time, but very much appreciated.

For many businesses, she said the city’s contribution is significant.

“Percentage wise, for the overall project, what it costs to reside an entire building, it could be a deal breaker,” Kerkvliet said.

Schaafsma and Kerkvliet said the rewards of remodeling are obvious.

For those who don’t know anything about a business, an aesthetic storefront brings in customers, they said. People spend more time in the city and are more likely to try out a new shop.

The program has awarded more than $37,000 since its establishment in 2012, according to the city’s website.

This year, the program will assist with four major projects for Mykel’s, Ed’s Kasilof Seafoods, the Peninsula Center Mall and the trio of new buildings in Shops Around the Corner, according to the site.

The city generally funds between three to five projects annually, and all eligible projects must be installed for a minimum of five years, be permanent, and comply with city code, according to the program guidelines.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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