What started as a home brewing hobby for David Boortz quickly turned into a brick-and-mortar beverage business called 203 Kombucha.

"It's a palate that I've got and other people do too for that tangy, tart, cold, fizzy beverage," Boortz said.

In October 2017, Boortz left his job as a nuclear engineer in California and found a home in Palmer, making kombucha in his dry cabin.

As he leaves the Lower 48 behind, he's starting to add more local flavors to the fermented tea drink that's taking over the beverage industry.

"The first few flavors I had were heavy with lemons and grapefruits and limes and strawberries because those were so plentiful," Boortz said about his California roots. "As I become more Alaskan, it's going to be more beets and carrots and rhubarb And fireweed and using local honey. The whole point of the business is to be sustainable and support local products and grow with the community."

Operations are expanding with new tanks that will quintuple Boortz's production to 160-gallon batches. A brand-new tap room for 203 Kombucha also gives him a chance to meet customers one-on-one.

"Because Palmer is the place that struck me so hard, I wanted to make it an iconic type of Palmer business," he said. "So we called it 203 for the 203 colony families who settled in Palmer."

From the name to the decor, the kombuchery pays tribute to the small town that's been so welcoming.

"The bar tops have been constructed from, up-cycled from, [Matanuska Electric Association] transformer panels," Boortz said.

Much of the metal used for the cooler and bar tables was bought from local farms. There's a table converted from an old electrical spool that still has the word "junk" on it, because that's the pile where Boortz found it.

The kombuchery, on the corner of South Valley Way and Arctic Avenue, is part of a renovation of "uptown" Palmer. New owners transformed the old building that formerly housed the YAK youth-activities center to give it a sleek, brick facade. Poppy Lane Mercantile is moving in next door to 203.

"Between us as businesses and the landlord, I think we're trying to create a cool, community space and expand the downtown Palmer reach," Boortz said.

Ailis Vann, president of the Palmer Chamber of Commerce President, said half of its members work at or run small businesses. As the owner of Midnight Sun Yoga, she's thrilled at the prospect of partnering with another local shop.

"We're excited as a chamber because it supports our economy, supports our community and we get to collaborate on all these fun events with different businesses. It's just amazing," Vann said.

David Boortz of 203 Kombucha discusses having a joint event with Ailis Vann's yoga studio.

Boortz said he's counting on the locals' input as he reaches out into the untapped market in the Mat-Su.

"The rest of it is going to evolve with feed back from customers and businesses. I want it to be something that stays in Palmer for a really long time," he said.

The grand opening is Friday, Feb. 1 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Regular business hours will be from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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