A Healthy Grow

Frontier Trading Post teams with First National to offer Seward organic, natural food options

For years, Kerry Romig lived as healthy a lifestyle as she possibly could. She fondly recalls the days of living off the land with her family near Cooper Landing.

“We made our own sauerkraut, spent many hours smoking our own fish,” Romig said. “Come to think of it, we were kind of all about food.”

Near the turn of the century, Romig switched to a completely organic diet.

The personal decision led to a professional opportunity.

Frontier Trading Post

Romig has owned and operated Frontier Trading Post since 2009. Four years later, with the help of First National Bank Alaska, she moved the organic and health food store to its current location in downtown Seward.

“I was a part-time working mom and driving to Anchorage for the right foods,” Romig said. “It was just too expensive and time consuming.

“It was clear there was a need to provide people in and around Seward better access to healthy choices.”

The first Frontier Trading Post consisted of a 350-square foot, rented room four miles outside of Seward. Romig made a go of it and started growing her customer base despite the confined space. But she wanted something bigger.

“At the time, I couldn’t expand my little store despite the growing health food industry,” Romig said. “I had figured the search for a new, larger space would be full of challenges.”

The search was easy because Romig made another smart business decision. She approached local First National banking experts Karen Sefton and Julie Woodworth.

A strong belief

A close friend’s positive experience with First National pushed Romig in the bank’s direction.

“Karen and Julie came to my tiny store and I immediately realized I was in good hands,” Romig said. “Never before had I experienced such personal service. They showed such a strong belief in my goal to expand my business.

“I wouldn’t have been able to relocate to the larger store without First National.”

Romig and her bankers decided to participate in the Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 Loan Program. The program offers 10-percent down, low-rate, long-term financing for real estate or equipment purchases.

“Our discussions with Kerry led to questions about financing a new building,” said Sefton, who started her First National career in 1979 and was appointed the Seward Branch Manager in 2012. “Kerry made such a good impression on us. She’s very knowledgeable about her business and the health food industry.

“It didn’t take long to know she was driven to succeed and enjoyed everything about her business.”

Frontier Trading Post moved to 4th Avenue in Seward. It’s the downtown area’s only grocery store.

Encouraging decisions

When customers approach the Frontier Trading Post, they’re enticed by its welcoming vibe. The blue, brown and white exterior gives way to a colorful interior with bright yellow walls.

Romig and her four employees greet every visitor as they walk in the door. The staff asks about customers’ needs for specific products like manuka honey from New Zealand or organic apple cider vinegar, to name a few.

“It’s amazing to see so many health-conscious folks in our community,” Romig said. “I like to think people walk in and feel encouraged by the decisions they’ve made. I often notice an energy, a certain happiness.”

During Seward’s busy tourist season, Frontier Trading Post offers more snack items like shelled pistachios and other foods for people on the go.

“We’ve heard from visitors who say things like “I only see this product at home in Los Angeles,’” Romig said. “We try our best to stay informed with natural-product blogs and similar venues.”

Romig recently leased space to a produce co-op, and it’s brought plenty of people in the door. She plans on doing some remodeling in the 1,200-square foot shop and would like to eventually build a small kitchen.

“Our bodies are designed to rejuvenate, so I’m glad to be there for people who want to take good care of themselves,” Romig said. “Our industry has seen about 15-percent growth in the last few years.

“The small things you do for your body today make a difference. We can put you on a better path for life.”

Romig’s business life took a new-and-improved trajectory when she strengthened her relationship with First National.

“The bank treated me like an individual, there was no boilerplate-like feeling at all,” Romig said. “The experience turned into something personal. I knew my business and I were important to them.

“I mattered.”

Learn more about Frontier Trading Post at frontiertradingpost.blogspot.com or on the store’s Facebook page.

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