Air supply business takes off

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2005

 

  Reece Parrish loads heating oil bound for Pedro Bay onto an Air Supply Alaska plane Tuesday afternoon at Kenai Municipal Airport. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Reece Parrish loads heating oil bound for Pedro Bay onto an Air Supply Alaska plane Tuesday afternoon at Kenai Municipal Airport.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Despite Alaska's chilly image, it's not always easy for some communities to buy frozen ice cream. Thanks to the help of some Kenai Peninsula entrepreneurs, however, that cold fact may soon be a thing of the past.

Shane Bowlin and Mike Kellie, co-owners of Air Supply Alaska, are helping Bush communities get fresh products — while they are still fresh — by selling and transporting goods to southwest Alaska and the Lake Iliamna region.

Before ASA, those communities had to purchase goods, fresh or not, from a vendor and then have them transported by a separate shipper, Bowlin said. Now, his company does both from their warehouse and hangar at the Kenai Municipal Airport, cutting steps in the shipping process, saving money and reducing the possibility of getting ice cream that melted while sitting on a runway.

"We found stores out there that stopped handling ice cream," Bowlin said.

When a store would receive a bad product there was nobody to be held accountable, he said. So the store owner had to absorb the cost.

ASA owns and delivers the product, so if something is bad, a customer can call to have the problem fixed, he said.

Bowlin said his company does not just deliver groceries.

For example, a customer in Kokhanok wanted to purchase a four-wheeler. After making sure it would fit on their plane, ASA had Ron's Honda Center in Soldotna bring the vehicle over and the company delivered it. Previously, such items had to be transported via Anchorage, Bowlin said.

Kenai is fewer air miles to southwest Alaska than Anchorage, which lowers delivery costs, he said. Bowlin added that the greatest difference in distance is in the Lake Iliamna region.

Bowlin said the idea for the business started in 2002, when he and Kellie got together and started discussing some business ideas. The next year they jumped in an airplane and started visiting Bush communities to see if it was going to work. Discovering that it was becoming more difficult for these communities to receive shipments, they decided to make it easier.

The business was launched in 2004 with one airplane. In June, they added another — a Volpar. Since then, ASA has delivered about $200,000 worth of merchandise to Bush communities purchased on the Kenai Peninsula.

"(That's) all stuff that would have come out of Anchorage," Bowlin said.

Now, any time the company makes a delivery, they get on the VHF radio and announce to the communities they are on the way. People meet the plane on the runway to get the product they ordered.

The service is getting so popular that, in addition to stores, lodges and individuals, the Lake and Peninsula Borough School District has started ordering supplies through this service, as well.

Tammi Peterson, head of purchasing for the Lake and Peninsula School District, said ASA is really helpful.

"It doesn't take them very long," she said. "When we need something ordered right away they get it done pretty quickly."



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