WASILLA — Dignitaries from the city of Wasilla dug their shovels into the dirt and broke ground on Alaska’s first Sonic Drive In franchise at The Shoppes at Sun Mountain on Wednesday. Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle, developer Cameron Johnson, and Sonic franchisee Larry Clark wore massive grins as they threw dirt into the Wasilla wind. As soon as Aug. 31, Valley residents will be able to get cherry limeade, a cake batter shake, or a pickle slushie as part of Sonic’s 1.4 million drink combinations in Wasilla.
“This is Larry’s passion project and that’s why I felt comfortable partnering with Larry on this deal, because I could see how committed he was and how passionate he was about it and that’s really what sold Sonic on him as a franchisee because they could just see that he’s like a dog with a bone. He’s not going to let go and he was diligent and persistent and they said yeah, that’s the guy that we want and that’s why I felt comfortable partnering with him to build this building and eventually hopefully see more and more and more of these in the state,” Johnson said.
Clark donned a Sonic shirt and a Sonic hat and said that getting ready for the grand opening has taken over his life. Clark spent more than four years pitching to Sonic to try to get a franchise in the Valley. Clark said that in just the last five years, Sonic has turned down over 30 applications in Alaska. His will be the first.
“I wasn’t going to give it up. I know the brand, I grew up with it you know and this was one of the things, I wanted to leave my legacy I guess you could say for my kids and down the road and say I built that,” Clark said.
Clark said that preparations are already being made for the grand opening on Labor Day Weekend. Clark already has made plans to have extra employees direct traffic through The Shoppes at Sun Mountain into Sonic. Clark said that he is already receiving interest from classic car groups that want to use the iconic drive in franchise to show off their hot rods in the summer. Clark has been spending his 2019 training and getting his team trained and ready for the grand opening.
“For me, it feels like the hardest part was getting that paper signed with Sonic. Getting all the legal out of the way and getting the financing approved and all that, the construction now is kind of the easy part. I think it’s just getting to this point was a challenge,” Johnson said.
Sonic will be the first to open in The Shoppes at Sun Mountain, and possibly among the fastest to ever be built from start to finish. Clark will hire more than 50 employees to start, and plans to work with the Nine Star Education program at MyHouse for employment opportunities. The 2,700-square foot facility is around a $2.3 million project.
Cottle echoed a lament shared by many Valley residents.
“It’s one less reason to go to Anchorage,” Cottle said.
Clark was eager to share what he had learned at the national conference in Washington D.C., where he tried the pickle slushie and innumerable other drink combinations. Clark is particularly excited about the Twizzler slushie featuring an edible Twizzler straw engineered by Sonic and Twizzler.
Members of the Wasilla Police Department, Wasilla City Council, Wasilla Chamber of Commerce and H5 Construction were all on hand to help break ground on Alaska’s first Sonic.
“It’s going to be really real this summer,” Clark said. “I feel stoked, man. I don’t know what other word to use. It’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work.”
Contact Frontiersman reporter Tim Rockey at email@example.com.