This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
Jennifer Reed said she was never coming to Alaska. A Texas native, Reed couldn’t see herself quitting her job and moving 4,000 miles away from her family.
“It was not going to happen,” Reed said.
Reed’s husband, however, had become enamored with the Alaskan frontier after watching a bevy of TV shows featuring life in the state, and hatched a different plan. He heard of some temporary chiropractic work in Bethel. The couple came to Alaska, became licensed in the state and began working a temporary job in the southwest Alaskan village in the summer of 2014.
“We immediately fell in love with the community,” Reed said. “We just found really quickly that we felt so comfortable.”
The two were previously living in Texas, and had been getting ready to open their own chiropractor practice. After over two months in Bethel, Reed and Hawkins’ temporary positions were over. They wanted to stay in Alaska, so they signed a three-year contract with a practice in Anchorage.
At the end of 2017, as their contracts were coming to end, the two were looking to move to a smaller community. They considered small towns across the state but chose to move their home and future practice to Kenai. In February, Puffin Chiropractic opened.
“That time of year is much slower so it took us a while to get going to where we’re at now,” Hawkins said.
Q: Why Kenai?
A: Reed: Last summer, I had 13 family members come to visit us and we stayed in Cooper Landing. One day we had a day trip out in Seward and almost everybody made it to Seward, except (my husband). He took a wrong turn and made his way down to Kenai. That’s how we found Kenai and he was like ‘you know you really would like this town. It’s much smaller and they still have all the luxuries of Anchorage, like Walmart and Home Depot, your grocery stores and the road, but you’re not like in a big giant city.’ … We started looking all over the state of Alaska because we definitely wanted to go back to a smaller community. We looked into Sitka. We looked into Cordova, Kenai, Soldotna. We just started looking at different places and Kenai just kept popping up. This is a good area. This is a good community. The more we read about it the more we liked it.
Hawkins: We both grew up in small towns so it was a better fit.
Q: What do you offer?
A: Reed: In our office specifically we offer full chiropractic adjustment, full body physicals. We’re both licensed primary care physicians, both have history working with athletics departments at Rice University in Texas. We really focus on rehab. We love stretching. We focus on your function. It’s your day-to-day function that you’re going to want to be able to do. Whether that’s bending over or picking something up.
Q: What’s in store for the future?
A: Reed: We’re a work in progress and we just hope to grow and expand. We hope to one day add on physical therapy and massage therapy. We for sure want to have it be multidisciplinary. We want to have more than just chiropractors in the office. Now that I’m in Kenai I have a little more control over my time. I will start teaching a general health and wellness class this fall at Alaska Christian College.
Q: How is your location in Old Town Kenai working for your business?
A: Reed: I think Old Town gets a lot of attraction. We are the only chiropractor around open on Saturdays, and during the Saturday market people see our open sign and that is really awesome for us. Honestly, I think our location is optimal. It happened by chance but I think we have an awesome spot.
Q: Why did you choose to be open on Saturdays and stay open until 7 p.m.?
A: Reed: Because we came from Anchorage, we specifically made a point to stay open late. We stay open until 7 p.m. That way people who get off work can have the opportunity to come in. Saturday we decided to be open because we were doing that in Anchorage and even there it was a popular day for us. We are closed on Sunday and Monday, but it pays off by being open later in the evening and on Saturday’s.
Hawkins: Plus it still gives us a weekend.
Q: How are you getting the word out about your new business?
A: Reed: We did radio ads at first, and that helped a little bit.
Hawkins: I think volunteering is the biggest way we’ve been getting the word out.
Reed: I started volunteering with parks and rec and that let me meet people. Then we started going to the Saturday market. Then we started volunteering at the food bank Thursday mornings, volunteering at the senior center on Mondays, The Boys and Girls Club on Wednesdays. … Between our volunteer work, it’s just helped to let people know that we exist, because we’re not directly off the highway. Now we’re at the point where it’s starting to be just word of mouth. July was by far the better month. Was it because of the fishing and tourism? Maybe. We’ll find out. This winter is going to be the real telltale for us.