Presented by First National Bank Alaska
KellyAnn Cavaretta and Matt Cope spent three years living in their Toyota RAV4, crisscrossing the U.S. and Central America, before they discovered the cozy coastal community of Seward, Alaska. And as soon as they visited, they started dreaming up plans to return.
Today, the couple’s vision has blossomed far beyond the ideas they seeded during long drives on the road: They moved to Seward, started a family, and opened Salted Roots Cabins in 2020. In 2022, they bought iconic local restaurant Thorn’s Showcase Lounge and began operating it as the Flamingo Lounge.
Together they have built a new life, luxurious lodgings and unforgettable experiences for visitors. But the restaurant, cabins and cottages represent far more than business to the couple.
“It’s more of a love story than anything,” Cope said, “about falling in love with Seward.”
In a town known for shutting down in the winter, they hope their year-round businesses will benefit everyone, travelers and locals alike.
“Seward’s not a hidden gem in the winter — we think it’s a forgotten one,” Cope said.
Salted Roots: Made for the next generation of travelers
In 2014, the couple left their lives in San Diego, California.
Cavaretta, now 32, worked in environmental consulting, and Cope, 41, worked in hospitality. Craving adventure, they took off in their car and didn’t look back.
At occasional stays in hotels or Airbnbs, they discussed features they liked about each place.
“Really what we were doing was carving out the design for Salted Roots in our heads without even knowing it,” Cavaretta said.
They drove from California to Nicaragua, and up to Denali National Park and Preserve, where they worked for the summer. At the end of the season, in mid-September, they drove to Seward.
They arrived on “one of those perfect days where you get totally suckered in,” Cope said. The pair hiked up to Harding Glacier, watched black bears play in a field of pink fireweed, and made a fire by the sea on a warm evening. They were hooked.
“We’re like, ‘okay if we’re still traveling by next summer, we’ll come up here.’ And we did,” Cope said.
They returned in 2018. Two years later, in March 2020, they broke ground on Salted Roots Alaska, “just in time for COVID,” Cope chuckled.
But with endless support from their new community, they built something even greater than they imagined.
“We unintentionally built something suited for Alaskans,” Cope said.
The cabins and cottages are nestled at the end of the road and have fast wi-fi, making them perfect for remote work. Their aesthetic design, majestic views across Resurrection Bay and cozy furnishings look beautiful in photographs and help create lifelong memories.
Salted Roots serves the “next generation of travelers,” Cavaretta said. That means offering modern conveniences and tech-friendly accommodations, combined with maximum privacy and comfort.
Throughout the property, the couple’s travels are reflected in the design.
“When you live in your car, the bathrooms and showers become paramount in life,” Cope said.
Freestanding bathtubs and a separate wet room with tiled showers are featured in all cabins and cottages. The cabins have a double vanity, heated floors, and double shower heads.
During their travels the couple witnessed others getting emotional in restaurants and public areas due to fatigue. “We wanted to provide a win for people,” Cope said.
“People come to Seward to go outside and get tired and get dirty all day, and we wanted a place for people to come and relax, and have that sense of remoteness without being remote,” Cavaretta said.
Flamingo Lounge: ‘the handing over of a torch’
They never planned to buy a restaurant. But in 2020, the owner of Thorn’s Showcase Lounge passed away and the family put the property up for sale. Thorn’s had been in business more than 70 years, and Cavaretta and Cope wanted to continue that legacy.
“It was humbling. It was way more than a transaction. It was the handing over of a torch,” Cope said.
The Flamingo Lounge changed its name but kept Thorn’s original aesthetics — including its iconic sign, red leather seats and moody lighting — and classic steakhouse dishes, while elevating the drink selection and expanding the menu.
“We wanted to create a space that was welcoming to all,” Cope said.
“Quality is not a matter of geography anymore,” he said. “It’s a matter of intention. It’s a matter of commitment. We really leaned into that.”
“You can find good food on the edge of any map,” Cope added.
Melissa Schutter, branch manager and assistant vice president at First National Bank Alaska in Seward, was raised in the community. She was happy the Flamingo Lounge kept its original 1970s vibe and some of her favorite dishes, like deep-fried halibut.
Schutter was “pleased to see that they’re keeping some of the old staples going and adding their own twist to it to cater to a newer generation.”
Supporting small business: ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’
Many local Seward shops shutter their windows once the brief summer season has passed. While living in a small town has advantages, Schutter said, people also need places to eat and stay during the winter.
“We need businesses to be open to support the residents that live here year-round,” Schutter said.
Schutter has worked at First National for nearly 25 years. She helped Cavaretta and Cope grow their businesses with merchant services, construction loans, and guidance from the time they began developing their business plan.
“When we approached them, they wanted to make (Salted Roots) happen for us,” Cope said.
When it came time to help with the Flamingo Lounge purchase, “it was really a joy to help them move to that next phase,” Schutter said. The bank now provides crucial access to cash for the restaurant’s daily operations.
“No one does anything alone,” Cope said. “There’s so many people that helped us along the way, most definitely First National.”
Salted Roots highlights other Alaska businesses throughout the property — local art, coffee, hot sauce, “even the mugs,” Cavaretta said.
Cavaretta is a small business advisor with Alaska Small Business Development Center. Supporting other local businesses is crucial to growing the city’s economy, she said.
“The more people that grow and show up and commit to small business, the better,” she said.
Salted Roots’ Winter Wellness Package includes a private yoga class, charcuterie board, and holistic treatments, all from Seward businesses, giving travelers a chance to enjoy the town’s local offerings and unwind in peaceful surroundings.
“It’s a great way for people to book a whole weekend and get a taste of the local community in Seward,” Cavaretta said.
As Cavaretta and Cope grow Salted Roots and Flamingo Lounge, they will continue to invest in other local organizations, just as they have been supported by the Seward community.
The reason is simple: “A rising tide lifts all boats,” Cavaretta said.
First National Bank Alaska has been Alaska’s community bank since 1922. We’re proud to help Alaskans shape a brighter tomorrow by investing in your success as you take the leaps of faith, large and small, that enrich communities across the state.
This article was produced by the sponsored content department of Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with First National Bank Alaska. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.