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Talkeetna Roadhouse.

Little did the Terstegge family know that a bottle of barbecue sauce would lead them to a roadhouse -- the Talkeetna Roadhouse, which they now own and operate. And while the roadhouse remains the family's main business, that same barbecue sauce, started because they couldn't get the genuine Kentucky article in Alaska, has also grown into a money-maker.

Marty Terstegge and his wife Lynn had come to Alaska in 1985, but he had been laid off from his oil company job and was working construction.

"Anyone from Kentucky knows you can't get real barbecue sauce up here," Marty says. That's why he and Lynn started making their own in 1989.

Before long, the endeavor blossomed into a commercial enterprise. First they gave sauce to friends and traded it for things like babysitting and auto repair. Then people started ordering cases, and the Terstegges had to rent a commercial kitchen to produce larger quantities.

Now they sell the sauce through retail outlets. The sauce business has become too large to handle along with the roadhouse business, so Lynn has contacted Heinz to see if they are interested in buying. If not, they may sell it locally.

The barbecue sauce led to the Terstegges becoming roadhouse proprietors when Marty and Lynn donated a case of sauce to the church bazaar. The woman who won the case of barbecue sauce was none other than the owner of the Talkeetna Roadhouse. When Lynn delivered the case to the lady's home, she mentioned her and Marty's desire to own a lodge and restaurant.

"Boy, have I got a deal for you," the lady told Lynn.

Marty vividly remembers the first time he visited the Talkeetna Roadhouse. Lynn said, "Oh, Marty can you imagine owing a place like this?"

"Yeah, right!" he quipped. "The chances of us having a place like this are slim to none."

Two years later, the couple had keys in hand. They proceeded to embark on what might be called the American dream: small town living, family business, time with the kids and working with each other.

Now in their third year at the roadhouse, Marty and Lynn Terstegge are the perfect example of how to run a small business successfully. They employ a full-time staff of six in the summer and two parttimers year-around to operate the lodge and restaurant business.

When the Terstegges first heard about the opportunity to buy the Talkeetna Roadhouse, it was in foreclosure. Marty checked with local residents about the feasibility of buying. The comments he got were resoundingly negative.

The original structure was old and decaying. It was built as a private residence in 1917 and became a roadhouse in the mid-'40s. Over the years and through several different owners, it fell into disrepair.

That didn't stop the Terstegges. It was now or never.

Five days after their second visit to the Roadhouse, they were the new owners.

Lynn became the chief cook and bottle washer until Marty secured a used commercial dishwasher. Marty became a jack-of-all-trades fixing the plumbing, furnace and repainting the building. The Terstegges and the roadhouse were a perfect match.

Beyond the Terstegge's ability to handle the physical work, they offer another important attribute: their attitude. They are people people.

"When someone remembers their Alaska vacation, I want them to think of the Talkeetna Roadhouse first," Lynn says. "We want our visitors to feel like they're at home. That's where we get our gratification."

It's not an easy job. In the summer, the Terstegge's day begins at 5 a.m. and many times doesn't end until midnight. The six-room roadhouse and trapper's cabin in back is full most of the tourist season. And besides offering room, they offer board in the restaurant.

Lynn loves to cook, but her only prior experience was cooking for large groups in college. She adapted quickly and now is known around Talkeetna for her delicious homemade fixings.

"No plastic processed cheese for my burgers," she says. "I only buy quality cheese, hamburger, 100 percent maple syrup and expensive mayonnaise."

Sometimes when Marty and Lynn are overworked, the second shift slips in. The Terstegges' daughter Katie, 7, and son Evan or "Buddy", 5, help set and clear the tables and even run the cash register.

The Terstegges appreciate the quality of life the roadhouse allows them. Their children learn responsibility, they live on their work premises, main street runs right by the front door, and if the kids get into mischief, Mom and Dad know even before they get home.

Business is growing by leaps and bounds. Marty estimates a 30 percent increase over last year alone. And that doesn't take into account their Homestead Barbecue Sauce business.

Sometimes a slim to none chance pays off.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Small Business; lodge and restaurant
Author:Maschmeyer, Gloria
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:788
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