Whale’s Tale at the Orca Adventure Lodge opened at the start of this year, two years after its grand opening as one of Cordoba’s two sit-down cafes, then closed early for the season in September, but they will be back on May 1, 2022.
You can count on that, says Wendy Ranney, the owner and the wife behind a range of coffee drinks, scones and homemade soups that have made Whale’s Tale a popular local bistro that caters to families with young children.
The store was forced to close at the start of this year for lack of sufficient staff, after the school opened and some employees could only work on weekends.
“It was definitely a frustration,” she said.
Whale’s Tale first opened in the pre-pandemic spring of 2019 and quickly became a hit for its food, play loft for young children, and overall vibe, but when the new global coronavirus hit the Alaska in 2020, Ranney said she couldn’t figure out a safe way to operate and he just seemed responsible for shutting down early in the season so her employees had time to find other jobs.
In 2021, the store was back, despite the pandemic, ready to serve a variety of drinks, including the Wood Sprite, a syrup made from spruce shavings, lavender syrup, peppermint and lime juice, mixed together. to club soda. “The locals loved it so it was fun to do,” she said.
Other popular drinks include Cullieann’s Birthday, a white chocolate mocha with red velvet cake syrup, served in extra large round mugs, with whipped cream and sprinkles, and Heli Skier, a white chocolate mocha. with chili powder and the possibility of spicing it more with cayenne pepper. .
Ranney also focused on the soup and bread options.
Every day she made a large pot of soup, and when it was gone, it was gone. Soup of the day was announced every morning and most of the time it was sold out by 1 p.m., she said. The most popular offering was her Italian wedding soup, to which she added gnocchi (an Italian potato paste) with meatballs and spinach.
“We had a schedule that was posted and we tried to stick to that schedule, including cream soups on the opposite weeks,” she said. “We made a clam chowder a week and the opposite Friday was a smoked salmon chowder soup.
“The soup was a big draw,” she said. “People were taking it to go. At the end of the season, the take-out soup came in a can, because I ran out of containers to take out.”
There is a lot of cream in his soups, Ranney admitted.
“If you are on a diet you don’t want to eat here,” she said.
“We are also known for our scones. If we had time we would make a sweet scone and a savory scone. The most popular was a lavender and vanilla scone with elderflower frosting.
Aside from her passion for creating drink specials, soups and pastries, Ranney said what she loved most was interacting with people. “I like to make people happy,” she said. “When they see what I’m trying to do, they understand. I wanted it to be a place people will remember and look forward to every year. “
To keep everyone safe during the pandemic, Ranney and her staff were tested regularly throughout the season, and when an employee tested positive, the store closed for a week, so everyone can be retested and the magazine thoroughly cleaned.
“We wore masks all the time,” she said. Customers also had to mask themselves unless they were seated. “At first we just asked unvaccinated people to wear masks, but after 70 people contracted COVID in Cordoba, we needed masks,” she said. “We had to say ‘it’s not just for me. It is also for the safety of other customers and staff ”.
Ranney said she was very grateful to the community for their support in 2021.
“It’s only successful because the community appreciated it,” she said.
With the store closing, she’ll be busy preparing for next year, researching online, and, if she’s traveling, looking for other cafes to research what makes it a hit.
“I am particularly keen not to poach any ideas,” she said. “If I like something, I put a personal touch on it.”
She is also training as an online barista and is considering the possibility of having her own roaster in the future to create an Orca coffee bean brand, but this will require further research. The current cafe took five years of research and renovation to get there, to create an atmosphere that would best suit Cordova, she said.
Her clients are pretty special to her too.
“A customer came over for coffee and was looking at people,” she said. “He wrote a poem about coffee. Then he went home and burned it in a piece of wood, ”and introduced it to Ranney at the store.
Mike McElhiney’s poem plaque is now on display at the store.
At that point, when he introduced it to her, “I could have stopped and been happy,” she said. “I don’t think he realizes what it has done for me.”