If you’ve ever dreamed of being a business tycoon in a wild west town, now’s your chance.
Downtown Chicken, Alaska — the café, saloon, gift shop, gas station and liquor store — are all up for sale, and you won’t balk at the price. Just $750,000 USD for a successful business that you only have to operate four months of the year, plus free range to cluck around town.
“For the right person it’s a great life. I’ve never regretted it,” says Susan Wiren (AKA Chicken Sue), who’s owned downtown Chicken for more than 30 years. “It’s an exciting way to make a living.”
You’ll meet odd and interesting people every day, most of them driving the Top of the World Highway between Dawson City, YK and Fairbanks, AK. You’ll battle the elements and the everyday challenges of living off the beaten path. You’ll answer the same few questions day after day: most often, why’s it called Chicken? (Gold miners ate a lot of Ptarmigan in the area in the early 1900s, but Chicken was easier to spell).
“It has to be for a special person or couple who enjoy being in the middle of nowhere,” Wiren says. The tiny town has only a dozen-or-so year-round residents, but satellite internet, phones and other technology have made life easier than when Wiren arrived in the ’80s.
She spent about eight winters in town before moving to Fairbanks to give her kids a more social childhood. The family spent summers running downtown Chicken — The Chicken Creek Cafe, the Chicken Creek Saloon, Chicken Liquor, the gas station and the Chicken Mercantile Emporium — with the help of seasonal staff on the hunt for summer adventure.
“You work hard for four months — basically nonstop — and then have freedom the rest of the year.”
Wiren says a few locals have expressed interest in the property, but she isn’t counting her chickens before they hatch. In the meantime her son Max has taken on the role of Operations Manager, with 2020’s pandemic season his first at the helm.
“He basically ran the place single-handedly. This is a kid who I thought would be a diplomat in the foreign service,” she says, since Max has a prestigious degree from Sorbonne University in Paris.
When Wiren ran the cafe, she woke early every morning to make cinnamon rolls — a five-year-old Max standing on a plastic milk crate to help out. A few decades later Max has taken over the baking, and has added some signature menu items from his time in Paris.
“You should see his baguettes!” she says.
With the border closed, business was slow this year, but the community came together to keep the town going. Department of Transportation road crews made a point of stopping by the saloon for a drink after work, and gold miners bought enough barbecue for the whole town. Max hosted Taco Tuesday Trivia Nights and other events for locals.
“We had friends drive 300 miles to do their Christmas shopping, just to help us out,” Wiren says.
Can’t wait until travel’s allowed to get your own souvenir? Order online from the Chicken Mercantile Emporium at chickenalaska.square.site. Learn more about buying the business at downtownchickenalaskaforsale.com, and find answers to your Not-So-Frequenly-Asked-Questions at chickenalaska.com.
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