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Bistro Red Beet adapts business model during pandemic

Owner Sally Koppenberg added more retail space for her handcrafted pantry items like black garlic, flavored oils and jams
Bistro Red Beet added more retail space for handcrafted food items.
Bistro Red Beet added more retail space for handcrafted food items.(Heather Hintze)
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 5:34 PM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - At Bistro Red Beet, Sally Koppenberg’s love of local, handcrafted food is on full display.

“These are cocktail cherries and the cocktail cherries are very boozy. They’re done in spiced rum and sugar,” she said, pointing to the shelves in her new retail space at her restaurant on the Parks Highway in Wasilla.

Being a restaurant owner during the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult, but Koppenberg looks at it as an opportunity to adapt.

“We felt like the pattern or the old model of restaurants had just become a little outdated, quite suddenly and quite unexpectedly and unwantedly and yet it had happened,” she said.

The restaurant was open for patio seating and drive-thru orders throughout the summer. Staff renovated the dining room to keep tables spread out.

Koppenberg also transformed part of her restaurant into a sort of food pantry with gourmet retail items like black garlic, flavored oils, spice blends and jams. She wants to make it easy for customers to grab and go with some of their menu favorites.

“We as a restaurant have been really fortunate. We have good customers and staunch customers and we’ve continued to do ok. This is not our best year, however, we’re doing fairly well,” Koppenberg said.

The products, like sauerkraut, pickled eggs and birch vinegar, are very labor-intensive to make but Koppenberg feels the work is worth it to get quality food into people’s homes. She said it’s a different business model she hopes will help the restaurant through the hard times.

“The word ‘restaurant’ means to nurture the community, quite literally that’s what it means. So that can be done in a number of ways so we decided to continue to nurture our community but do it in a way that we felt would be appropriate going into the future,” she said.

Through the uncertainty, she’ll keep doing what she loves and sharing her passion for food with the Mat-Su community.

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