104 Alaska Business | September 2018 www.akbizmag.com
TIO N | S M A L L B U S I N E S S Denise May grew up in Port Lions and moved to the City of Kodiak in 1982 when she married Robert, an Oregon native, who had come to Alaska and who she met while he was working in her father’s commercial fishing operation. About adecade later, the couple, now married
thirty-seven years, was facing the decline of the
commercial fishery and decided to move into
a new business. They opened the Whale Pass
Lodge via a ninety-nine-year land lease pro-
gram offered to Afognak Native Corporation
Afognak is the combination of two Alaska
Native Claims Settlement Act village corporations—Natives of Afognak and the Port
Lions Native Corporation—that merged in
The Afognak shareholder lease program
began in 1982, providing shareholders five-acre lease parcels located in the Afognak Bay,
Raspberry Straits, Port Bailey, and Kizhuyak
Bay areas. Today shareholders enjoy land use
privileges on more than 175 leases.
After ten years of running Whale Pass
Lodge, the Mays sold last year to another
shareholder and opened the Ashama Point
Lodge, located on the south end of Afognak
Island in Afognak Bay.
The project gained notoriety from the start
when its construction was featured in an
episode of “Building Alaska,” televised on the
The Ashama lodge, says May, is a bit smaller
in terms of maintenance and closer to the
river than Whale Pass, which makes fishing,
hunting, and tour expeditions easier to manage.
“The Whale Pass had just proved more
challenging as we got older. It was more a
young man’s operation,” she says.
The couple initially learned of the Afognak
leasing program through a shareholder newsletter. Afognak represents more than 1,000
shareholders, and, according to its website, has
partnered with the Native Village of Port Lions
Traditional Tribal Council on a “multifaceted
planning project” designed to create jobs and
empower local small businesses.
“The [regional corporation] has always
been extremely helpful,” says Denise May,
adding that additional support included
helping the couple attain bank loans and
establishing credit. They’ve also benefitted
from Afognak’s online business directory
because it has driven guest inquiries.
“[Lodge operation] been challenging but
rewarding,” May says, and there are a few
Bristol Bay Native Corporation
provides grant and start-up
funding via its Bristol Bay
Development Fund, launched
in 2014 as a $5 million equity
investment fund to catalyze
in-region business initiatives,
survival, and growth.
Come Discover the Faces of
Ketchikan’s small ;shing town charm, relaxed pace of life, and rich Tlingit
culture make it the ideal vacation, day trip, or business destination in Alaska.
Come discover our living heritage – come discover the Faces of Ketchikan.
Lodging • Shops • Tours • Restaurants • Totems • Art • Hiking • Fishing
907.225.8001 907.225.4421 907.225.5163 907.225.4421 907.225.4885