New chamber leadership

An open house at the Three Northmen was held for the Haines Chamber of Commerce, which recently announced the new leadership of Amanda Brandon. Dori Thompson is the assistant director, after filling in as director for the last few weeks. Brandon has lived in Haines for the last two years after bouncing around a few other Alaska communities. She grew up in Washington state. Brandon said she brings experience in a wide variety of nonprofits, construction, and bartending, and has a lot of ideas for community events and new outreach. “I think we might be the only chamber of commerce that doesn’t have an Instagram. It’s such a little thing but that’s where I get my information,” she said. Brandon has a five-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. Thompson grew up in Oregon, but is a member of the Chilkoot Indian Association tribe and has cousins in town. She applied for the job on the suggestion of Alaska Rod’s owner Rod Hinson. Aside from her work, she is passionate about reconnecting with her Tlingit heritage through art classes and subsistence.

Foundroot gets land

Foundroot, an open-pollinated seed and retail company owned by local farmers Leah Wagner and Nick Schlosstein, recently announced it had acquired 1.25 acres adjacent to the 1.25 acres they already owned to restart their farm on Sunshine Street, just north of downtown. The company is heading into its 13th year of sales and sells seeds tested and proven for northern growers. In 2021, the company lost access to their main farm field, eliminating their market garden produce operation and severely limiting their ability to do seed breeding and trials. The lot they have purchased is forested and they hope to develop it within the next three years so they can resume farming. “We’re really excited to move back to that property in the neighborhood we love,” said Wagner. According to a social media post, the south-facing slope with three feet of rich topsoil “means we have a notably longer season to get our seed crops to maturity.” The company has also been moving into a retail shop in Dalton City at the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds, which Schlosstein said will require “substantial renovation” before it will open to the public. He said the store may include a micro cafe, along with Foundroot’s retail products that promote a climate-resilient lifestyle. The company is shooting for an opening before Beerfest in May. In the meantime, customers can enjoy discounts on their products online with free local pickup, to help make their move to the new space easier.

Schnabel steps down after 50 years at SERB

Roger Schnabel retired at the beginning of December after 50 years leading the company that became Southeast Road Builders. Schnabel started the company as Northern Timber Corporation fresh out of college, and it built timber roads for loggers before the industry crashed in the early 1980s. His first public works job was in 1982, and Schnabel said his bid came in about 40% less than the next closest bidder. When asked to pick a highlight of his career, Schnabel said he doesn’t have one. “Every job – almost – was an adventure. They all had their unique character.” In 2018 the company was bought out by Colus, and became Colaska. Schnabel continued to work for the reorganized company on two-year contracts, and then shorter extensions. He said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Nancy, after years of leaving her during the construction season, sometimes for months at a time. “You don’t realize how big of a responsibility you’re carrying when you’re manager. When I retired I got an unbelievable relief,” he said. Schnabel said he will continue to be involved in various projects around town, including a new car wash next to the small boat harbor.