It’s been called the “Alaskan brain drain” and the cause of the aging population demographic that has become a concern to Alaskan economists and political leaders. Simply stated the children of the generation of young people who migrated to Alaska over the last three decades have left the state and are starting their adult lives elsewhere. So when one of the community’s young adults return home with an Ivy League degree and purchases a local business its cause to celebrate. Such a celebration took place recently at the grand re-opening of Echo Lake Feed, on Echo Lake Rd. just south of Soldotna, now under the entrepreneurship of Kasilof born Janelle Moerlein.
Moerlein is the daughter of life long Alaskans Tim and Kristine Moerlein who moved to Kasilof from Anchorage some 23 years ago. Janelle was a prominent 4-H member as were her brother and two sisters. She graduated from Ninilchik High School, and chose to go back east for her college education and graduated from Dartmouth University in New Hampshire with a degree in psychology. Returning to her roots Moerlein says was an easy choice even though her Ivy League degree opened a myriad of exciting opportunities, “It’s the attitude of the people here that brought me home, unlike the east where everything is fast paced and seems to be about money or becoming a doctor, lawyer or PhD, here it’s more laid back, people really do take time to smell the flowers so to speak. I thought a lot about coming back to Alaska, an office job and making a lot of money didn’t really appeal to me, so when this opportunity became available and gave me the chance to come back and be with the people I grew up with, I was happy to take it, ” said Janelle.
Moerlein says that her experience in 4-H also made a difference in her choice to return to Alaska, “4-H in itself was a huge influence, being back east I realized that I grew up in a way that was different from everyone back there. I may not have known as much about making it in the city, but I had a confidence that I could make it on my own whether I had a college degree or not. 4-H gave me life skills that I knew I could succeed and take care of myself; most kids back there don’t have those experiences. Going to school back east was very worthwhile and I’m grateful for the experience, but it sure is fun to be home,” said Moerlein.
As a businesswoman Moerlein isn’t planning any dramatic changes to the family Feed store that has been at the top of the hill on Echo Lake Road for more than two decades, “I may specialize more in horse related items, because that’s what I know and love, I’d like to try boarding horses in the future, but we’re here to serve the community and I’ll be listening to my customers and taking their suggestions and carrying what they need. The only major change at the moment is there are less animals running around and that’s a help during our busy season as people start getting ready for winter and stocking up their hay and feed,” added Moerlein. Echo Lake Feed is open Tuesday Friday 11:00am 7:00pm and Saturday 10:00am 6:00pm or call 262-2357.
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