Crabb's Corner roadhouse in Central sold again

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- For the second time in six years Jim and Sandy Crabb have sold Crabb's Corner, a well-known roadhouse in the mining enclave of Central.

This time the Crabbs are hoping they're done for good.

''After so many years in the bar business, you have to get out,'' said Jim Crabb, whose cantankerous but friendly nature provided the bar with its Alaska-like atmosphere.

For the second time in six years, Jim and Sandy Crabb have sold their popular pit stop on the Steese Highway 130 miles north of Fairbanks. The bar, grill, gas station, general store and hotel also serves as a checkpoint in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

John and Shelly Mills of North Pole are the new owners and plan to rename the business Mills Junction. The bar sits at the corner of the Steese Highway and Circle Hot Springs Road, which leads eight miles to Circle Hot Springs Resort.

''We wanted to have our name on it,'' Shelly said.

The new owners say they don't plan to make any drastic changes.

''I might add something to the menu, but we're certainly not going to go in there and turn it upside down,'' she said.

Shelly said she and her husband have owned a cabin in Central for the past four years and make regular trips to go snowmachining, hunting and just relaxing.

Shelly, 39, worked for Exclusive Landscaping & Paving, while John, 38, is a heavy-equipment operator for Great Northwest. They plan to live in Central.

''We think that's a good way of life up there,'' she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''There are good people in the community.''

The Crabbs first sold the roadhouse in 1994, and the business became Witt's End. But the new owners defaulted on their payments, and the Crabbs resumed control of the bar two years later.

The Crabbs, both 56, have been looking for another buyer since. Sandy has diabetes and can't work much anymore, and the 16-hour days were getting old, Jim said.

''We still like people; we just want out of the bar business,'' Sandy said. ''Twenty years is long enough.''

The Crabbs purchased the bar in 1982 from Frank and Vi Pearce, who operated a small beer and wine store with a pool room downstairs.

Jim Crabb immediately posted a plywood sign next to the front door that stated the bar reserved the right to refuse service to any federal agency or employee who might hamper mining efforts in the Circle Mining District.

Crabb's Corner has always been a popular stop for mushers in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. It has served as the official checkpoint in Central since the race started in 1984. The Crabbs provided each musher with a free steak dinner, and Jim traditionally handed a $100 bill to the first musher to arrive.

The Mills have already contacted race officials and told him they would like to host the checkpoint for next year's race.

''We're real excited about that,'' Shelly said of the Quest.

So are Quest organizers, who were facing the possibility of finding a new place for the Central checkpoint.

''We're real pleased they'd like to maintain the checkpoint,'' said race director Layne St. John.

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