In March Linda McMahon, head of the US Small Business Administration, announced Alaska's Small Business Person of the Year winners are Jason Motyka and David McCarthy, owners of Denali Visions 3000 Corporation (DV3 Corp), headquartered in Healy.
DV3 Corp is generally better known for its individual properties: Prospectors Historic Pizzeria & Alehouse; Denali Crow's Nest Cabins; The Overlook at the Crow's Nest; The Denali Park Salmon Bake; 49th State Brewing Co.; and Miners Market @ McKinley RV & Campgrounds, all in Healy, and a second 49th State Brewing Co. location in Anchorage.
The Bake that Started it All
Motyka graduated with a business degree from Western Washington University, after which he entered an exchange program in Ecuador where he learned to white water kayak. Motyka, who grew up in Anchorage, wanted to come back to the state and "do something outdoor-related," he says. Through a friend, he got a job as a white water rafting guide on the Nenana River in Denali National Park. "I started managing that
company in Denali, and I really loved Denali, and I saw potential for some different opportunities," Motyka says.
It was soon after in 2005 that he and a partner approached the owner of The Salmon Bake about buying the property. The Bake is located across the highway from the Princess Hotels in Denali. Motyka says, "We basically changed the concept from kind of a momand-pop diner where you ordered over a loud speaker microphone--there were picnic tables that were lined with old red and white checkered table cloths, etc. That was the only kind of restaurant available at the time in Denali [other than the hotel property restaurants]."
Motyka says that in that first year, expectations for how they would run the restaurant didn't exactly meet reality: they thought they'd need to hire fifteen employees to run the restaurant-side of things, such as serving tables, while they ran the business. As it turned out, they had fifteen employees in the first two weeks and ended up hiring forty by the end of the first month, and at the end of the first summer season they'd already doubled revenues over the previous owner.
The next year, 2006, brought a whole new set of challenges. Motyka says that he wasn't really a "restaurant person" and had no experience, prior to The Bake, other than a few months as a busser. "We were looking for some seasonal help, and we were looking for chefs and people that had restaurant experience. Line cooks and chefs are a hard thing to find up here in Alaska, especially on a seasonal basis."
In the summer of 2006, David McCarthy, who graduated from Kendall College in Chicago with a Culinary Arts degree in 1998, felt the time was right to hop on a motorcycle and drive the Alcan...