In the remote, 400-person town of Gustavus, groceries are already hard to come by — but restrictions on some items are making things trickier.

By Mike Pomranz
May 04, 2020
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I used to order all our groceries for delivery anyway, but ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, we haven’t been able to get a slot. Sometimes, I’ll think about putting in a grocery order and immediately get a flash of frustration—and just as quickly, I’ll think, Really? I can walk to a grocery store. Things could be a lot worse. I could live in an isolated Alaskan town seven hours from the nearest Costco… which, for about 400 people, is a genuine concern during the coronavirus crisis.

Over the weekend, The Hustle reported on how the lone grocery store in Gustavus, Alaska, is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. A mere 446 people live in this remote city, and they apparently get the vast majority of their groceries from Toshua Parker—a guy who gets most of his supplies by making a seven-hour, boat-assisted shopping run to the world’s smallest Costco in the relatively booming city of Juneau. His store is officially called Icy Straight Wholesale—but, of course, the locals call it “Toshco.”

About a decade ago, Parker’s big plan was to streamline how groceries got to his hometown to make them more affordable. “There was just so much margin,” he told The Hustle. “And I knew there had to be a way to do a better job.”

Beyond securing his own boats, Parker began relying on Costco for its affordable goods, but with COVID-19 restrictions, supplying a town of 446 people from a single store has suddenly become trickier business. “We’ll place a $20,000 order, but they’ll still only give us one pack of paper towels,” he was quoted as saying. “I understand why they’d do that, but we’re not a single person panic buying; we’re trying to feed a whole community.”

Still, Parker—who is billed as a local legend—is so used to getting groceries under tough conditions, he’s actually had a few success stories at a time when some items can be tough to find anywhere in America. Specifically, The Hustle says that Parker was able to secure so much flour recently that even his parents all the way in Arizona asked him to send them some by mail. “They can’t get it,” Parker told the site, “but up here we’ve got a couple pallets.”