Since his arrival last May, David Thomas has jumped into Gustavus community life with both feet, introducing his own roasted coffee brand, Sentinel Coffee, and initiating a number of new activities here. He has taken over the editorship of the Strawberry Point Pioneer, our local newspaper, started a “slow food” recurring event, and begun a monthly foreign film showing. What a great addition to the town! His energy and ideas add new enjoyment to our lives. Read on to learn of the niche he is building for himself here.
David moved here because his wife, Louise (known as Lou,) a marine biologist, got a job at Glacier Bay Park. A Juneau woman, she was hired as a whale ecologist, arriving here in November of 2015. As David was working for the legislative session, he waited until it was over to move. The couple found a cabin to rent from Karen and Larry Platt near the Good River, through the recommendation of a friend.
Actually, David had been here before. Gustavus was the first place in Alaska he visited. After completing a job in 2001, he returned to his birthplace, Massachusetts, and got a job as a bar manager. However, he decided he wanted to travel again. He looked for work on CoolWorks.com, and found a job working as a server at the Bear Track Inn for the summer of 2001.
After leaving Gustavus behind, David started a small coffee shop in Woodstock, Vermont, traveled the country in an RV and finally wound up on the Oregon coast, where he set up another coffee shop. The Oregon coast taught David surf kayaking, hitchhiking, and pastry-making. It is also where he met his future wife, Lou. David’s Ye Olde Green Salmon Coffee is still open to this day, owned and operated by David’s original business partner. A well-known eccentric hippy joint, David always insisted of the Green Salmon, “We are not hippies!”
In the summer of 2010, he went with Lou to the Pribilof Islands, where she had a job as a biological technician. That summer he worked as a volunteer. David and
Lou were married on October 3, 2010, and went to New Zealand for the winter. In the summer of 2011 they started doing the fur seal count together as part of a “mark and recapture” study with NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) in the Pribilofs.
David has an established coffee business in Juneau. This business is not his first experience with roasting coffee. His operation is small. He services six cafes in Juneau, and caters to individual customers on a subscription service. At present, he returns to Juneau every Monday on the ferry and comes home again on Wednesday. On his ferry-rides, he does bookkeeping and paperwork. In Juneau, he does his deliveries with a helper, as there are lots of stops. They deliver to homes, offices, the six cafes, and Bartlett Regional Hospital. Besides coffee, David carries 20 different types of tea and a chocolate sauce to die for.
To Stephanie Shor’s satisfaction, David took over the newspaper, the Strawberry Point Pioneer, in November of 2016. His goal is to make the paper free. In order to do so, he needs more advertisers and sponsors. Right now it costs him $2.46 to print each copy, and at a customer cost of $2.00 to put the paper out, he loses money even if every copy is sold. If he can cover printing costs with advertising consistently, he will make the paper free.
David got his publishing experience just out of high school. He got involved in something called “zines” — these were self-published, small, not mass-produced booklets, requiring a small printer. They used to be printed in small batches in bookstores, and included short stories, poetry, and essays. Those types of magazines tended to be politically charged, though David was often more philosophical in his writing. He found the experience to be helpful when he started doing the newspaper.
David has started a special food event here. “Slow Food” was a movement which began in Italy about 15 years ago, as a protest against a McDonald’s moving to the Spanish Steps in Rome. Started by one man in Italy, it soon became international. It initially focused on traditional foods and methods, hence “slow.” The movement had a credo: To advocate for diversity in ecosystems and society; protect natural resources for future generations; help people and the environment to depend on each other; promote food that is locally, seasonally, and sustainably grown. As David really likes cultural foods of all different types, these dinners offer him a chance to show his skills. He likes recreating traditional recipes, and seeing how the way we prepare food has developed over time.
Gustavus “slow food” nights will be announced on Gustavus Buy/Sell/Trade, so watch for these announcements, bring your dish, and attend! You will enjoy an excellent meal.
For our added community enjoyment, David is now showing foreign films once a month. Watch the paper for the schedule. David says he owned a café in Oregon where he did a film series. He says choosing is hard with subtitles. He likes to have seen the movie so he knows it is a good one, that does not include any offensive material.
David has been asked to join the Gustavus Community Center board, so he will have yet another place to utilize his talents.
In his spare time, David’s main focus is kayaking. In Gustavus he has the opportunity to participate in this hobby quite regularly. Actually, he met Lou while living and kayaking in Newport, Oregon, so it is an activity they enjoy together.
Now that you have learned of David’s activities since he has moved to Gustavus, go on to read “the rest of the story.” You’ll read something of David’s many travels since he left his family home in Massachusetts, more about how he met his wife, Lou, an interesting look at the Pribilof Islands, and background on how his present business developed. I believe that you will agree that he is definitely a valuable addition to our community.
David was born in 1979 in Worcester, Massachusetts. He lived in the small suburb of Holden, living there through high school. By then he was ready for a change.
He says he didn’t have the best time in high school and decided to go into seasonal work rather than college. He got a job as a food server at Yellowstone National Park. This job made him realize he could travel through his work. He liked to work places where he traveled because in this way he could become acquainted with the local people, whereas tourists don’t really fully understand an area. He lived inside the park so he could see its inner workings, and thoroughly explore the back country. Being there through every weekend, he could see the seasons progressing and animals changing with their seasonal cycles. He says you can really get to know a place when you see those changes.
Immediately upon his arrival in Yellowstone, he decided to hike up Electric Peak. He had not experienced high-altitude hiking before, so it is not surprising that he got altitude sickness.
David’s favorite place to camp while in Yellowstone was the Lamar Valley. He began camping there after a group of wolves had been relocated in the park, and it was the first time he heard them howl before he moved to Gustavus.
For the next winter season, he got a job at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida. It was a private club for the rich folks. David hired on as a server and then started bartending at the “clubhouse” for the country club. The club had three golf courses, but the clubhouse was only for those on the members’ list. It was very exclusive; no guests were admitted. David said it gave him a view into another world.
He met several famous people while working there. One of them also happened to be named David Thomas. He was the founder of Wendy’s. When the two were introduced, the David Thomas from Wendy’s said, “I must challenge you to a duel, because there can be only one David Thomas.”
He lived on the grounds at first, but wanted to experience more of the Keys. He moved in with two other guys who rented an apartment — a dumpy one-bedroom accommodation in town. He stayed there for a month and a half, and couldn’t handle it any longer. There were already three people staying in this small apartment, and then another worker from the club moved in. The next new resident was a 15-year-old homeless girl. One of the men owned a parrot. David gave the parrot to friends to deliver to his sister.