Grief in Kodiak over the closure of the town’s Taco Bell, KFC

The combined KFC/Taco Bell located on Mill Bay Road in Kodiak. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

Debbie Rohrer, owner and manager of the combination KFC/Taco Bell on Mill Bay Road in Kodiak, announced on Facebook late last week that the restaurant would be “permanently closing its doors.”

“We are saddened and disappointed it has come to this,” she wrote.

According to her post, she and her brother Dan Rohrer, who is the former mayor if Kodiak, were unable to comment further about the reasons for closing the business, due to “potential future legal action.” The restaurant will continue serving food until they run out of supplies, she wrote, which she expects will be within the next two weeks.

Reached by phone shortly before the announcement, Debbie Rohrer said she had no comment.

The community’s response to the news was strong. In 12 hours, Debbie Rohrer’s post had more than 500 reactions and 150 comments. Almost all of the replies were despondent about the loss of a local fast food fixture.

“I got a lot of calls and text messages from people after I posted and there’s been a ton of support via Facebook,” Debbie Rohrer said on Monday, adding, “Our community is amazing, and I hate that this happening.”

Jason Waggoner is a stay-at-home parent who worked on the Coast Guard Base back in 2008 when the restaurant opened. He remembers making the 20 minute drive from the base into town on his one-hour lunch break, just to order a double-decker taco.

“Of course the whole building was packed. The whole waiting area was elbow to elbow with people,” he said.

Despite placing his order right away, Waggoner said servers told him it would be an hour before his food was ready.

“All the people in there knew they had to wait, but it wasn’t like an airport security line where everyone’s in a hurry to get somewhere and everyone’s upset,” he said. “You know, people were excited to be part of the experience.”

Waggoner said he saw more than 100 people waiting to get their food that day. For someone who had moved to Kodiak from the Lower 48, he said it was nice to be able to get the exact same food he remembered from home.

“People in Kodiak, we want to have this wild, natural life, but then we also kind of miss those bits of civilization, such as chain restaurants,” he said.

“You get in there, and you finally get the taco and it’s exactly like the one you had down in Arizona, or the one you had in Vermont. And there’s something nice to that,” he said, adding, “Of course, that’s why we’re all gonna miss it a little bit when it’s gone.”

KFC/Taco Bell is a major sponsor of many community activities, from Arts Council events to high school sports teams. Trisha Bartel, performing arts director for the Arts Council says the closure is devastating news.

“Here is a prime example of how small businesses, they make big differences in our community. When businesses like Taco Bell/KFC, when they step forward as sponsors, they support enriching our daily lives. Make us appreciate and value living in a small community. This is a pretty heavy loss for for all of us.”

Bartel noted that KFC/Taco Bell has supported a number of performing arts events, including this past December’s production of The Nutcracker, last year’s Jig Jam and many other community theater and touring artist performances.

“It’s one less business in the community to sponsor those types of things, which is a challenge as various businesses in the community shut down for lots of different reasons,” said Dan Rohrer, who first opened the combination store in 2008 before selling the business to his sister six years later.

He still owns the KFC/Taco Bell building and both Kodiak Subway restaurants, which continue to sponsor a variety of community activities.

“It just is one less business that can help cover those costs,” he said.

The Kodiak KFC/Taco Bell is the only Yum Brands combination store of its kind to have opened in Alaska.

This story has been updated.

 

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