CHEER SECTION – Sitka High and Mt. Edgecumbe High School cheerleaders react to a successful free throw Tuesday night at Sitka High during the cross-town boys basketball game. Edgecumbe boys and girls teams each won their games against Sitka High. Stories on the hard-fought games are on page 4 of today’s Sentinel. The region tournament takes place in Sitka in mid-March. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Sitka Big Mac Shocker: McDonald’s to Go

 

A customer reacts this morning to a notice at the Halibut Point Road McDonald's that the franchise will be closing by the end of July. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

After more than 35 years as Sitka’s top spot for a fast food fix, McDonald’s on Wednesday announced that its Sitka restaurant will close this summer.

An announcement posted on the bulletin board at the Sitka McDonald’s this morning said the restaurant would “cease operations no later than 7/31/23.”

The announcement indicated the decision came from McDonald’s headquarters, and not from the current franchise holders, Mike White and Bill Laliberte.

“As a franchisee of McDonald’s we understand the business decision but find it hard to leave a community that we have been involved with for so long,” said the statement above White’s and Laliberte’s names.

In their announcement, the two thanked their Sitka employees. 

“Those relationships will long be remembered, cherished and appreciated. You truly are the best,” they said.

“To our faithful customers ... We couldn’t have been in business without you. We will miss you and your beautiful community.” 

Customers at the bustling waterfront restaurant this morning reacted to the news with disappointment.

Fran and Jim Hartman, both in their 70s, were at table overlooking the harbor and enjoying a Happy Meal (hers) and a quarter pounder with cheese (his).

“Big bummer, and very sad,” Fran said. “When we left Kodiak we talked about what city we wanted to go to. And one of the things on the list is they had to have a McDonald’s.”

They are oceangoing sailors and live aboard their boat in neighboring Thomsen Harbor. They’ve called Sitka home for the past 13 years, and said they eat more than once a week at McDonald’s.

They cited not just the food but the view as a selling point, a world-class view of Thomsen Harbor, the ocean, and Mt. Edgecumbe in the distance.

“The Kodiak McDonald’s has a view of the used tire shop,” Jim said.

Jim also mentioned the artwork on the walls of the Sitka McDonald’s featuring Alaska landscapes, images and  wildlife.

“It’s really nice, somebody cared,” he said.

The couple even had a special celebration of Jim’s 70th birthday, and McDonald’s let them and their friends the Cropleys “make it fancy fancy,” with linen tablecloths and china.

Coming through the drive-thru, Morgan Bruno had picked up two cheeseburgers for herself and Happy Meal for her 4-year-old daughter before stopping to talk to a reporter.

She said she is too young to remember the opening of McDonald’s – at noon Aug. 19, 1986 – but did recall her father, contractor Marty Martin, doing work on the building. She remembers going to McDonald’s after sports, and other events.

“It was always consistent, it was always here, it was always available,” she said. “So easy, and the drive-thru is such a big thing, living in this rainy community.”

Bruno said she used to enjoy walking down from the high school during lunch. As she spoke, groups of high school boys were coming in the door to get McNuggets, fries and burgers.

Dean Orbison and his son Tyler were there for a McDonald’s lunch break, and at a nearby table two longtime friends were eating and talking things over.

Matthew Long, 15, said he heard about the closing from his music teacher, but was more philosophical than particularly disappointed by the news.

“Just put in a Chick-fil-A,” he said.

Commenting on the closure, Chamber of Commerce executive director Rachel Roy said she has noticed helped-wanted signs in recent years, and the restaurant shortening its hours, citing lack of staff.

She said she didn’t know why the restaurant is closing but it makes her think about the workforce challenges in Sitka.

“It does highlight and validate the Chamber’s work in addressing workforce challenges in the community,” she said. “From housing to training to childcare – we need to find solutions.”

The sign on the bulletin board, dated February 1, said: “McDonald’s has made the decision to cease operations in Sitka, no later than 7/31/23. As a franchisee of McDonald’s, we understand the business decision but find it hard to leave a community that we have been involved with for so long.

“To all our employees, past and present, thank you! Those relationships will long be remembered, cherished and appreciated. You truly are the best.

“To our faithful customers...we couldn’t have been in business without you. We will miss you and your beautiful community.

“Mike White

“Bill Lalberte”

 

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AK COVID-19

At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

February 2004

Photo caption: White Elephant Shop treasurer Ginny Cushing presents a $1,300 check to Monica Bettis, Sitka Community  Hospital long-term care activities director, and Kathy Inman, long-term care manager at the hospital. The donation is to be used to buy a wide-screen TV for the long-term unit.


50 YEARS AGO

February 1974

Photo caption: Gov. William Egan presents trophies to the all-tourney team in the Sitka American Legion Invitational Basketball Tournament. From left are Brad Sele, Klukwan; Gene Short, Ketchikan; David Harnum, Sitka Arrowhead Truckers; Terry Friske, Klukwan; and Jay Levan, Sitka American Legion.

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