Adam Stout, ’04 accounting, earned his CPA and worked as an accountant in Dallas for several years after graduation from Oklahoma State University. His job allowed many opportunities to travel the world, but when one of his close friends suggested Stout join him for a cross-country journey to Alaska, he was off on a new adventure.
“I stopped my job where I sat in a cube all day,” Stout says. “I felt the need to go up there knowing it was only for the summer — it was one of those transitional periods of my life. So I packed up all of my guitars and the rest of my stuff, my savings, and drove 5,000 miles to Alaska.”
He headed to Denali National Park, which is a seasonal attraction with limited access except from mid-May to mid-September. Upon his arrival, Stout was stunned to find the job he had lined up in Denali was no longer available. However, three days later he had a feeling something was calling to him.
“Sometimes in life you have these things that you need to look into and see if it might be something for you,” he says. “So I didn’t have a job, but a couple days later I met Becki Klauss, who is now my business partner, wife, the mother of my child — everything you could possibly be. She helped me get a job at the local health clinic, which I managed for two summers. I knew nothing about the health industry, but just knowing numbers and accounting, they threw me right into it.”
One year later, Adam and Becki had their first child, Bear Von Stout, who is now 7 years old. At the time, Becki was the general manager of the Black Bear Coffee House. Stout stepped in to help her grow the business by offering his financial abilities. In 2011, the couple decided to purchase the business together, and Stout works as the chief financial officer and accountant while Becki continues to manage the business.
Black Bear Coffee House stands out among chain coffee shops by serving craft coffee in the wilderness. They start from scratch and use locally roasted Steam Dot Coffee. The shop also offers several vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free food items. Customers with food sensitivities appreciate the alternative options.
In addition to its smoked meats and side dishes, the shop is known for its exotic Alaskan meats such as moose and reindeer.
The adventure of living in Denali means being in the middle of nowhere. Black Bear Coffee House is 130 miles away from the nearest grocery store and hospital, which is difficult for some to fathom. But while Alaska can sometimes feel like another world, there are aspects of the area that are decidedly familiar.
Black Bear Coffee House is known for serving a variety of baked goods, in addition to its smoked meats and side dishes.
“The reason I showed up here is because there’s a big Oklahoma connection in Alaska,” Stout says. “The lady who previously owned Black Bear Coffee House, Beth Barrett, is from Okemah, Oklahoma. She found her way here 35 years ago and started Black Bear Coffee House in 1997. Everyone’s intertwined.”
“I have used everything I learned from my accounting experience and from my time at OSU, which is where it all started,” he says.
Thanks to Stout’s experience in financial management, he has helped grow the business by almost 300 percent in five years. After such success with Black Bear Coffee House, Stout expanded with the purchase of Denali Adventure Tours. The company offers everything from flightseeing to glacier tours, rafting, horseback riding, fishing, hiking and even more thrilling activities.
“Not only do we serve coffee and food to all the tourists, we also help them with their vacation activities,” he says. “At the Black Bear, it has the best real estate and best spot, so everybody comes here asking questions. We’re trying to expand our business but also help them have a good time.
“I get to take what I’ve learned in the big city, traveling and school, and apply it to this place out in the middle of nowhere — it’s cool. Alaska is really on the forefront of popular culture right now, and fascinating. It’s the frontier, the same country but a different world, a completely different place with its own completely different set of rules — you just have to be tough.”
Being so far away from home can take its toll on Stout as well. Since Denali National Park’s primary season for visitors is in the summer, Stout and his family live in Dallas, where his son attends elementary school, the rest of the year.
There Stout works as a CPA specializing in small business consulting, where he applies knowledge from his business successes in Alaska.
“People don’t realize that having a business only open part of the year and 5,000 miles away means you have to open and close the business, move, and make that journey twice all in one year,” Stout says.
“Then, once you’re done with that and have made some money, it’s time to hire a new staff, create a whole new budget and do it all over again. I’m so thankful for Becki and without her — my support system and the best partner I could have ever found — I wouldn’t be able to do this. But this is an adventure, and I’ve used what I learned growing up in Oklahoma to make it happen.”
For more information about Black Bear Coffee House, visit blackbeardenali.com.