More than just a convenience store and gas station, the Bristol Express serves a vital role in Dillingham’s close-knit community. Purchased by BBNC as part of a more extensive acquisition in 2015, the store provides shareholders with job opportunities. It’s a place where students find their first jobs, learn valuable skills, and adults like Manager Charlene Lopez, along with a few others, help develop and prepare the next generation for the workplace.
As a manager, Lopez enjoys watching these kids grow into adults. “One of the biggest reasons I came [to the Bristol Express] thirteen years ago was because I thought it was a great opportunity to work with the youth in our community. We currently have ten kids between the ages of fourteen and eighteen working for us right now, and of those ten – three of them are fourteen years old. This is the first job they’ve ever had, and all three of them have grown and gained so much already in the short time they have been here.”
“I like working at the Bristol Express because I love seeing everyone in our community come and get coffee,” says barista Kristen Olsen, a senior at Dillingham High School. For the last two years, she has worked as much as she can in preparation for college; she plans to attend this fall. “I also enjoy the hands-on jobs. For example, only in Alaska would you see a sixteen-year-old girl getting trained for the first time on how to fill propane, and I honestly think that is amazing!”
High School junior and basketball player Kendra Kapotak enjoys the management and her coworkers. Another Bristol Express “veteran” with two years under her belt, Kapotak appreciates the flexibility of a work schedule that allows her to play sports after school. “It’s a great team that we have at the Bristol Express, and knowing that I won’t have to catch up after basketball is one less thing I have to stress about. I hope to continue working [here] until I leave for college.”
Preston Woods, a freshman, is a part-time barista and is in charge of placing orders and restocking merchandise, among other duties. Last summer, he took part in a Kaladi Brothers training session held at the store after the purchase of a new espresso machine; the response from customers has been very positive. “I like working here because there is always something to do at work,” said Woods.
Lopez couldn’t agree more. “The adults supervise, train, and provide support, but it’s the kids who really run the show. And they do a fantastic job. Over the years I have watched many of them grow from starting their first job to coming back from college over the summer. It feels good to have grown with so many and to have the support of BBNC and the community as we help prepare these teens for adulthood.”