Creating a new kind of community

Creating a new kind of community

You can tell there's something unique going on inside these art-covered walls. The menu is loaded with items like benedicts, brownies, beef, bacon, Boca™ and something called The Bob. The staff is friendly and relaxed, and they sometimes come to work in themed costumes just for fun. The art on the walls is created by local folks, and rotates monthly. There's an artists' reception the first Friday of every month. Every Wednesday night the cafe fills with traditional Irish music enthusiasts who play instruments, dance or just enjoy. There's a lot going on at Snow City Cafe, and that's just how managing partner Laile Fairbairn intended it to be. Snow City Cafe was born from an idea that began in the breakfast cafes of Seattle, where Fairbairn and her friends loved to eat and read the papers. When Fairbairn returned to her hometown of Anchorage, she saw the market was wide open for a cafe of that nature. "Anchorage needed a hip, urban gathering place, where people could also get healthy food," Fairbairn said. "I thought, how hard can it be?" She admitted in the same breath that starting a restaurant was much harder than she thought. But she also found great resources along the way. With the help of the University of Alaska's Small Business Development Center, Fairbairn wrote a business plan, found eight partners, and eventually Snow City Cafe opened its doors in April 1998. Specializing in breakfast--these entrees make up 70 percent of the cafe's business--Snow City is wildly successful. Though the menu is popular, it's the unique energy and atmosphere that keep people coming back. "There's a pilot who told me he comes here because the staff makes him feel like part of our community," Fairbairn said. "He talks to his family about our staff, and even sent one of our servers a Christmas card." The cafe's growth meant a physical expansion was necessary in 2000, and it also meant more bookkeeping work to keep up with--and First National Bank Alaska had the solutions. With a business checking account already established at First National, Fairbairn began using other bank products to help save time, paperwork and some stress. Her managers all carry First National MasterCard® BusinessCard™ debit cards, and use them to buy supplies when they need to without the hassle of expense reports and reimbursements. Snow City also uses Bank Now! Online for Business, pays bills by phone and regularly uses the night deposit box. "Our bookkeeper now seems to do so much more in less time," Fairbairn said. "She never has to stand in line at the bank, and we always know where our accounts stand." Being just down the street from the Main Branch doesn't hurt either. Branch Manager Kim Frensley and Fairbairn enjoy the close proximity to each other, and are able to see one another often. "Having a local banker has been critical to our success," Fairbairn said. "Kim has been a real friend and advocate for the cafe, always looking for ways to help us save time or money. I know I can call her anytime and get an immediate response--I don't think you can get that kind of service from a bank that's not local." With things going so well, Fairbairn is now working to improve the existing business and making her banking even more efficient. "We always get busier even when we think we can't," she said. "What we have here is great, and people respond to it."


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