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Wrong Fran Tate?

Fran Tate

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Background Information

Employment History


Pepe's North


Arctic Stories

Electrical Engineer

Arctic Stories


Pepe's North

Web References (36 Total References)

Fran Tate, the ebullient ... [cached]

Fran Tate, the ebullient owner of Pepe's, says the polar plunge club is an example of good entrepreneurship: "An entrepreneur finds a need and fills it," said Tate, who at 82 continues to wears her signature large flower barrettes in her hair each day and has appeared on theJohnny Carson show.

People had been jumping into the Arctic Ocean -- just to say they had done it -- for much longer than she'd lived in Barrow.
At times the Rotary club and other organizations had kept records. But Tate -- a former electrical engineer who also owns sewage and water service businesses in Barrow -- standardized it.
"I have records going back 21 years," she said.

Arctic Stories - People videos [cached]

Fran Tate Owner of Pepe's North of the Border, Barrow, AK

Fran Tate
Owner of Pepe's
Fran Tate, owner, Pepe's North of the Border Mexican Restaurant, Barrow, Alaska
Fran Tate of Pepe's North of the Border Mexican Restaurant talks about opening up in Barrow, Alaska
Fran #2 Fran Tate of Pepe's talks about being an electrical engineer and coming to Barrow in the 1970s and the community spirit of the Arctic
Fran's compares growing up in the lower 48 to living here in the Arctic
Fran #4 Fran Tate of Pepe's North of the Border Mexican Restaurant gives her take on goose poop..
Fran Tate, owner of Pepe's North of the Border, talks about growing up poor and coming to Barrow decades ago where she ran a sewage and water business while opening her Mexican restaurant.

Fran Tate Inside ... [cached]

Fran Tate Inside Pepe's

Starting a business from scratch is a risky venture. Even these days, half of new businesses need more capital than anticipated, and three-quarters of their owners earn a lower-than-anticipated standard of living in the year 2000 ( Pile on the disadvantage of no industry experience, little start-up money, a hostile population, and a location 300 miles above the Arctic Circle, and you get an idea of what Fran Tate faced twenty years ago.
When the then 50-something engineer lost her position designing airstrips and drilling sights, her company, on contract with the Navy, offered her a desk job in Anchorage. Instead of taking that cushy position, safely located within the confines of civilization, Tate chose to stay in Barrow, Alaska, a tiny town perched on the edge of an eternally freezing ocean. "I wanted to be moving," she says, abhorring the thought of pencil pushing. Barrow didn't have running water or sewage services. All supplies had to be air shipped because no roads connected the town to the outside world. Tate didn't heed these seeming portends of disaster; she knew that if she wanted to stay in Barrow, she would have to make a new business work.
She flew a couple of trucks up from Anchorage and used them to start two businesses that supplied essential needs: water and sewage hauling. When Barrow eventually provided public services, Tate looked around at the drilling town and concluded that Barrow's growing population of oil people and visitors had nothing to do.
"Everyone said they wanted a Mexican restaurant," she says. It made sense that people would want hot, spicy food in a freezing climate. Trouble was, she didn't cook; however, she remembered someone who did. Tate had worked her way through college toiling in a Mexican restaurant in Washington State, so she called her old friend, Bob Worthington, the manager of Old Pepe's Mexican Villa. He didn't want to join her Alaskan adventure, but he did send her a copy of his menu.
As for a building, Tate applied for loans at eleven banks in Anchorage, but no one would give her any money because they thought she couldn't make it. Eventually, she renovated an abandoned house. It took quite a toll on her savings to get the facility livable and equipped to serve food.
Near the end of the renovation, Tate's cash ran out. Desperate to make her new business profitable, she wrote a total of $11,000.00 in hot checks three days before the place opened. "Loan by debiting an account with no cash," is how she euphemized writing rubber checks. "But don't try this!"
One of her vendors called the cops, but Tate happened to know the Chief of Police personally. "He knew I was an honest person," Tate says. Begging him to stall disgruntled vendors, Tate convinced the him not to arrest her but rather to give her a week to make good on her checks.
"When we opened, we were the hottest thing in town," Tate says with a pride in her voice. It took only a week to get the cash to cover her bad checks.
"Everybody thought I was nuts," Tate says, chuckling. "People in this town wished I would fail. They don't want to see a woman that aggressive make it. Then they thought I would fail because I had no money."
Some of the local carpenters and plumbers refused to help Tate while she was struggling. "Now I don't give them work," Tate says. "They'll call asking for it, but they won't get work from me."
When Pepe's first opened, it was the only restaurant in town except for a restaurant housed in the hotel. Eventually, Pepe's drove the other eatery out of business. The hotel management offered Tate a chance to revive the faltering restaurant; however, she couldn't abandon Pepe's. Instead, she offered to move her restaurant into the hotel's facility. When she did, Pepe's capacity increased by nearly 200 seats. Now, Tate could offer banquet and meeting space in Pepe's two dining rooms, and the adjoining coffee shop would provide a casual meeting place for locals and guests.
While founding Pepe's was challenging then, maintaining the far-flung restaurant now keeps life interesting for Tate.
One Easter, Tate planned an elaborate brunch. She published her extensive menu and anticipated an enthusiastic crowd. Unfortunately, an erupting volcano's ash grounded all flights to and from Barrow. Not only would Pepe's special brunch be limited, but the restaurant's regular supplies were also unavailable. Undaunted, Tate posted a sign on Pepe's door that read, "What you see is what you get."
Tate's pluck and perpetual self-promotion have slowly won over Barrow's favor as she has shifted her focus from utility to fun, using any excuse she can to drum up interest in Pepe's. Every Easter, she dresses as the Easter bunny and rides the town bus passing out candy. She offers half-priced meals for men on Father's Day. She funds the town's New Year's fireworks (the sun doesn't set in July). She chairs the Polar Bear Club whose frosty submerges in the Arctic Ocean earn inductees a certificate and a patch. During hard times, Tate is also supportive of Barrow residents. The night before a funeral, she delivers a ham to the grieving family in person, and lingers to comfort them.
Visitors, prized for their word-of-mouth power, are treated to warm hospitality in Tate's corner of the Arctic. Every visitor to Pepe's receives a color brochure, and an "I Love Pepe's" button. Tate says that many visitors stop in because someone told them that if they're going that far North, they must eat at Pepe's. Unless they bypass the guest book, she also sends them a Christmas card. Most years, her staff hand-addresses over 7,000 cards and Tate signs every one. (She doesn't do computers, she proclaims proudly, waiting for someone to extol the gadget's marvels to her once again). She confesses that by the time she gets to the last hundred cards, she's ready to start throwing them away. But she sticks with the arduous task, even when it takes until May to finish them.
Tate's penchant for community involvement, customer service, and quality have paid off. One of her best compliments came from an unlikely source-a waitress from another restaurant in town. She was dining at Pepe's and wouldn't admit to Tate where she worked. "Do you work for the competition? Tate teased. The woman's answer was a gift. "There is no competition for you! she said.
Recently, Pepe's entertained the president of British Petroleum with a buffet featuring roast New Zealand lamb chops. "Are we getting fancy, or what? Tate boasts.
Now in her 70's, Tate doesn't look like she's slowing down. She works more than 16 hours per day, and is considering reopening her water and sewage businesses. She's happy in Barrow where she can try out her "crazy ideas" as she calls them. If Fran Tate is crazy, she's crazy like a fox.
After a successful career and three successful businesses, one wonders why Tate should stay in Barrow. She sums it up simply, "The people up here are different."

GEE'D INSTEAD OF HAW'D . . ... [cached]

GEE'D INSTEAD OF HAW'D . . . Get-well wishes to Fran Tate up in Barrow, the real edge of nowhere. Earwigs report Tate, owner of Pepe's, the farthest north restaurant in America, had a dog accident and broke her arm in seven places.

No, she wasn't training for the Iditarod. She tripped over her pet pooch. No word on whether the accident interrupted her 30 years of hosting "Jazz Below Zero" on KBRW radio.

Being the Bear and Taking the Plunge | Special Education Service Agency [cached]

Fran Tate, owner of Pepe's, says the water is 30 degrees and the air is around 20.

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