by Nancy Mueller
When life gives you lemons, the saying goes, make lemonade. Or in the case of Juneau Food Tours Founder & CEO, Midgi Moore, pivot from leading popular tours of Juneau’s culinary scene for cruise ship passengers to whipping up new streams of business revenue fast in the wake of a pandemic.
“I’ve always been interested in food,” says Moore. “My mom was an amazing cook. As far back as junior high school when other kids went out, I was watching cooking shows on PBS. I was really interested in learning cooking techniques.”
In 2009 she started a blog, “Meals with Midgi,” to share her recipes with friends and family. From there she was off and running. Her blog was picked up as a column in a local newspaper for six years. At the same time, Moore worked for Travel Juneau managing the Visitor Information Center and volunteers. By the fall of 2014, Moore felt the timing was right to quit her job and launch Juneau Food Tours full-time. With the help of Princess Cruise Lines and UnCruise Adventures, she learned to navigate the protocol of getting the word out to cruise ship passengers eager to explore Juneau food.
Like other small Alaska companies dependent on travel and tourism, Moore entered 2020 with bold business plans fueled by her entrepreneurial spirit. After six years in business, the hard work of creating a start-up had begun to pay off. Juneau Food Tours was riding the wave of increased sales with anticipated growth of 200% in the year ahead, allowing Moore to bring on full-time employees to further expand the company. But when the pandemic hit early last year, those plans dried up overnight.
The impact on Moore’s company was devastating, causing her to make the painful decision of dipping into her retirement savings to refund customers who had already paid for the upcoming season.
“I had to be able to sleep at night,” says Moore. “It was the right things to do.”
From Moore’s perspective, the hardest part of business planning since then has been dealing with the uncertainty, not only for her company, but for local restaurants with whom she has partnered to showcase Juneau’s unique cuisine.
“What I enjoy most about my business is sharing Alaska in a unique way that nobody thinks about. I love having people who say ‘I don’t eat fish’ then discover on our tours that they love Alaska seafood because it’s so delicious. And I found that I really like working with restaurants. I get to support my partners. It’s never about me. I tell my partners, ‘I’m going to bring groups to you.’”
So rather than close the door on a business she loved, Moore decided to fast-track other aspects of her master business plan. She opened a new storefront in downtown Juneau and created Taste Alaska! as a box subscription that picks up where her food tours leave off.
“I figured if visitors couldn’t get to Alaska, we’d bring Alaska to them!” says Moore.
With the purchase of a seasonal or annual subscription, within each box customers can enjoy the best of Alaska food products, a local artwork, and trip planning information as inspiration for future visits to the 49th state.
Moore also offers Taste Alaska! as a 45-minute Virtual Tour designed to engage and entertain meeting goers. And she’s quick to let customers and clients know that each box supports six to eight local small businesses.
For partners, like Tracy LaBarge of Tracy’s King Crab Shack, Moore’s creative vision has been a welcome support. “Midgi has promoted Juneau for so long,” says LaBarge. “She’s so selfless. She really cares about other businesses. She’s such a great collaborator.”