Heart and soul have been poured into the coffee shops of Alaska, and Susan McKeeth recognizes this. Nine of Alaska’s many coffee shops are featured in McKeeth’s 2007 “Shots of Espresso” calendar.
“They’re not run-of-the-mill,” McKeeth said. “These places are novel. They just jumped out at me.”
Of these nine unique Alaska coffee stands, four of them are on the Kenai Peninsula. Espresso Wagon and Arctic Fox in Soldotna, Cafe Cups in Homer and Blackwater Bend in Anchor Point are all featured in the calendar.
“It’s very Alaskan and very rustic,” said Anna Selanoff, 21, who owns the Arctic Fox with her mother, Leslie Hall. “I just know she loved the matching outhouse.”
The proceeds of this calendar, which feature 68 coffee shops in both Washington and Alaska, go to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. McKeeth raised $6,000 with her last calendar project and said she hopes to raise as much with the new one.
Cancer research was the catalyst for the project idea, McKeeth said.
A research interviewer who deals with cancer patients and heart disease, McKeeth found herself wanting to do more to help. As she traveled around the 13 counties of Puget Sound conducting research, the idea struck her to create a calendar.
After the release of her 2006 calendar, which featured espresso stands from Puget Sound, McKeeth’s nephew in Anchorage told her she had to check out the coffee shops in Alaska for her next project.
So, she set out for Alaska during the summer on a latte-finding mission.
McKeeth’s first stop was Seward in what she described as “the throes of summer.” She found a coffee shop shaped like a huge mug at the base of a mountain. Daisies and fireweed in full bloom provided a photograph worthy of the cover for her calendar.
“It was one of those pictures I laid down in the ditch for,” she said.
In June, McKeeth found the Arctic Fox in Soldotna. The owners were thrilled at the idea of supporting cancer research.
“Espresso is a big hit right now,” said Selanoff. “It’s a very catchy idea on both ends. It benefits both the coffee drinkers and the cancer research program.”
Cafe Cups in Homer has been around for 15 years and features large art deco coffee cups on the roof and mosaic decorations using broken plates on the walls.
“It’s a very thoughtful, unselfish, fabulous thing,” said Dave Olsen, 50, who owns the business with his wife, Jennifer.
Some of the coffee shop owners have personal reasons for participating in the project.
Jenny Clark, who owns the Espresso Wagon in Soldotna with her husband, Herman, said if participating in the project would help cancer research, she’d be glad to do it.
“I’ve had family that have had cancer, and I wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for that,” Clark said.
McKeeth found the project to be a rewarding adventure.
“It’s not just about raising money for cancer research, it’s about the lives I’ve touched,” she said. “The karma’s come back to me because I’ve done this.”
Several people have called McKeeth since the release of her calendars to express thanks at the effort and care she has put into her project, she said. The projects also have taught her about photography.
“I was never even a photographer before this. Photography is just being willing to keep shooting. Eventually you’re going to get a picture you like,” she said.
McKeeth envisions a coffee table book featuring even more coffee shops for her next project, including one she missed in Eagle River. She said wishes she could spend more time on it.
“I’d love to have the time to keep doing this,” she said. “I spent all of my vacation time on this project last year.”
The 2007 calendar can be purchased at several of the featured coffee shops in the calendar, as well as the Once in a Blue Moon gift shop in Seward and Anchorage or on the Web site at www.onceinabluemoon.com.
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