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Unalakleet Lodge.

Unalakleet Lodge

WHEN LEONARD BROWN REturned to his hometown of Unalakleet in 1966, he expected to enjoy some R&R away from his job in the National Guard. But before his vacation ended, Brown found himself up to his neck in hamburger patties, nonstop orders and a sizzling enterprise.

"I had no intention of starting a business, but workers from Matanuska Electric who were up here at the time doing some work needed a place to stay and someone to cook for them," says Brown.

On Nov. 1, 1966, he set up seven tables and modest accommodations for his new venture -- Burgers to Go -- in a small building on land that he inherited from his grandfather. The business kept him hopping.

So much so, that by 1969, he had expanded his burger business into a full-fledged lodge. And Brown hasn't stopped building yet. Open year-round, the Unalakleet Lodge features seven rooms for customers and lots of good, hot food. When business is booming, there are accommodations for another 35 people in a separate building.

Business has been brisk for Brown. He figures the lodge is usually booked at 70 percent capacity, or about 5 guests per day. Business was good this summer, especially in August. Brown estimates the lodge served between 40 and 100 meals per day in its peak season.

His clientele consists of federal and state employees and school teachers from Nome, because the Bering Strait School District office was moved to Unalakleet three years ago. "During the winter, we get plenty of overflow traffic from the school district -- auditors, draftsmen, accountants, politicians," the proprietor says.

Brown also keeps the coffee hot and the lights blazing for the support crew of the Iditarod. He says the race brings the lodge "one week's worth of work and keeps us working 24 hours a day."

After 23 years in business, Brown considers his biggest challenge trying to keep his employees happy. "I took a child psychology course at a community college some years ago, and it's sure come in handy here when we have employee crises," says Brown. To ward off potential problems and keep the lines of communication open, Brown has a one-hour weekly meeting with his current staff of nine employees.

Brown relishes being his own boss. "God, I would have it no other way," he says. He likes the cooperation, the challenge and the flexible hours, but adds, "At times I dislike being stuck here having to take care of my own business."

And the sweet smell of success still lingers in the air. Brown had to postpone adding a second and third floor to the lodge last April, because of rain. But the expansion will begin again, and Brown can hardly wait.

As a grandfather of seven, Brown doesn't think about retiring yet. He may slow down a bit, though. "I'd like to play a little before I get too old," he says.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Native-Owned Enterprises
Author:Brynko, B.L.
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:company profile
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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Next Article:Island Trader Transportation Co.

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