Three Bears Alaska to make Southeast debut with Saxman grocery store and gas station

South Tongass Services
South Tongass Services on Tuesday morning, November 29, 2022. (Raegan Miller/KRBD)

The Ketchikan area is getting a new grocery store. Three Bears Alaska, a chain with locations in Southcentral and Interior Alaska, plans to open a new location in Saxman, just south of downtown. The store is scheduled to open next spring.

In the meantime, Three Bears is taking over the operation of a gas station and supermarket in the area.

Three Bears Alaska’s move to Ketchikan is a two-pronged move. First, the grocery chain takes over the management of South Tongass Service. And soon, crews will begin converting a warehouse at Saxman Seaport into a full-service Three Bears grocery store, complete with a sporting goods store and hardware store.

Three Bears owns several stores across the state, from Wasilla to Ninilchik. In addition to petrol and groceries, some shops also offer sporting goods, liquor sales and pharmacy services. There are 20 locations across the state and one in Butte, Montana.

Three Bears leases the service center from Southeast Stevedoring, a Survey Point Holdings subsidiary. In the meantime, the City of Saxman will lease the warehouse to the company. The city said in a press release it wanted residents to retain control of the property.

“The council wants residents to keep as much of the shoreline as possible and therefore felt it appropriate to rent it out rather than sell it,” the City of Saxman said in a press release.

a cash register
A checkstand shows a Three Bears Alaska logo Thursday afternoon. (Raegan Miller/KRBD)

Three Bears did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Lori Richmond is Saxman City Manager. She said the financial details of the lease are private for now.

“But essentially, we’re getting a one-time payment on a 99-year lease,” Richmond explained. “In return, they then perform a certain amount of infrastructure updates. And in the lease there is a local lease clause and (an) infrastructure clause.”

Richmond said a deal has always been part of the plan for the city.

“The City of Saxman has been looking for economic development options that will provide jobs and services not only to Saxman, but also to our neighbors on this side of the island,” she said.

The lease has not yet been signed, but Richmond said the company has access to the storage site so it can provide construction equipment for the renovation work.

“But in terms of timing… for the build out, we left it to Three Bears with this concept that they’re the pros at building and opening grocery stores,” she said.

KRBD visited a Ketchikan coffee shop to get a sense of how locals feel about the development.

Donna Georgie and Mary Caskey are self-proclaimed snowbirds – people who spend the summer in Alaska and head south for the winter.

Georgie said she thinks the store is great for the community.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “We need more grocery stores”

Caskey also welcomed the news.

“I live south of town and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Caskey. “That’s new to me.”

Grace McElroy took a break from taking orders at the counter to remember Tatsuda’s IGA. This store served Ketchikan for more than 100 years before a landslide forced it to close.

“[I’m]super excited for the Three Bears,” she said. ‘It would be good to have a grocery store out there. It’s been a while since Tatsuda(‘s) closed. Rest in peace.”

Calvin Traudt lives 15 miles north of town, but he takes the bus past the South Tongass gas station every day.

“It’s going to be good for all the people south of the city, you know, put some people to work,” he said.

Ketchikan will be the first community in the Southeast with a Three Bears location in Alaska.

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