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Kasilof Mercantile sale worries residents; new owners pledge to keep same service

Murky future?

Posted: Monday, March 20, 2006

 

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  Mary Lambe, owner of Kasilof Mercantile, rings up a drink for Jared Duncan of Kasilof on Thursday. Lambe, who has owned Kasilof Mercantile since 1994, has sold the business to a couple from Georgia. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Mary Lambe, owner of Kasilof Mercantile, rings up a drink for Jared Duncan of Kasilof on Thursday. Lambe, who has owned Kasilof Mercantile since 1994, has sold the business to a couple from Georgia.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

After a dozen years in the business of providing her community with just about anything people might need, Mary Lambe has sold Kasilof Mercantile to a couple from Georgia.

“I’m going to take my first summer off in 12 years and just enjoy the farm and my family,” Lambe said Tuesday, as she was busy serving customers.

Her husband, Robert Lambe, is a partner in the CPA firm Lambe, Tuter and Wagner. Her three daughters are grown and in college in Anchorage, she said, and that has made a difference.

“Children grow up and suddenly it’s a different chapter in one’s life. It’s time to close this chapter,” she said.

Kasilof resident Jim Galloway, now deceased, was owner of the business at Mile 109 of the Sterling Highway since at least the late 1960s, Lambe said. It had been sold to another buyer, but Galloway reassumed ownership when that buyer went bankrupt. He sold it to Lambe in 1994.

 

Tammy Gist of Kasilof fills water jugs outside of the Kasilof Mercantile on Thursday. Access to water for those who do not have wells is a valuable community service to many in Kasilof.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

“I bought a building and a location. There was no inventory. I built the business from scratch,” she said proudly.

She named it Kasilof Mercantile because she planned to offer a little of everything — from groceries and animal feed to videos and office supplies. The building included a cafe and more recently, high-speed Internet service. The building, she said, also served as the community post office until shortly before she purchased the property.

Bob and Mary Laster, of Chula, Ga., now own the business. In an odd coincidence, not only do the Lambes and Lasters share the same first names, Bob and Mary, each family has a daughter named Sarah.

“I think we live in parallel universes from Georgia to Alaska,” Lambe said.

The business will officially transfer April 1, and Lambe said she expects it to go smoothly, but she does not know what the Lasters have planned for the building.

One issue of interest to some Kasilof residents is access to water. Members of the community have had access to water at the store since Jim Galloway owned it, Lambe said.

 

Kasilof Mercantile offers a little of everything, saving Kasilof residents a drive to Soldotna or beyond for supplies.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Soon after she purchased it, she said, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation expressed some reservations about the amount of water being used and whether that water was moving through her septic system.

“They made me put a water monitor on the well, then required me to ask people who took water to let me know how much they took,” she said. “Those records were never asked for. I have daily logs.”

Access to water for those who do not have wells is a valuable community service, and the conservation department currently classifies the water source as a community well. Lambe said she hopes the Lasters will continue the practice.

“I have not been told directly that the new owners will do this,” she said, “but I’ve been led to believe they will. I certainly hope so.”

Bob Laster, reached in Chula, where he is a dairy farmer, said local residents would be able to continue drawing water from the store.

“Absolutely nothing is going to change,” he said Tuesday. “We want to do as good a job as Mary (Lambe) has done.”

Bob Laster said his son and daughter-in-law, Rocky and Destiny Laster, of Kasilof, will join him and his wife in running the store.

“We want to turn it into a family thing,” he said.

The store name is expected to remain Kasilof Mercantile.



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