Raising Cane's first Alaska franchise brings its founder full circle
The man whose fried-chicken chain got its first funding from an Alaska job has advice for the state's would-be entrepreneurs: Work hard and never take no for an answer.
Raising Cane's founder Todd Graves visited Anchorage this week to personally inspect the franchise's 431st restaurant, which opened its doors last week at Tikahtnu Commons.
For Graves, the trip felt familiar after he worked a fishing job in the state.
"But that money, literally, was the reason I was able to start this," Graves said. "And so for me, it's coming back here, it's like the homecoming."
In the mid-1990s, the Louisiana native was a recent college graduate who had a business plan for a restaurant that served chicken fingers. Graves said no bank would give him a loan to get started.
"In the beginning everybody was like, 'You're going to start a chicken restaurant, you're gonna what? You don't have any money?'" he recalled.
So Graves went to work, first in the oil refineries of Los Angeles, and then north to Alaska where he'd heard that commercial fishing could reap big rewards in a short amount of time.
"Took a plane to King Salmon out of Anchorage, hitchhiked to Naknek, and actually after about a month got a job on the boats," Graves said.
Graves spent several months of 1995 in Alaska's commercial fishing industry, primarily catching sockeye salmon. Graves figures he earned about $25,000, enough to head back to Baton Rouge and get started on his dream.
At that point, all he needed was a name.
"And so I thought, 'Man, you know what, that would be a cool name to name it Sockeyes, cause I fished for sockeye salmon,'" Graves said. "And then people in Louisiana were like, 'No one knows what a sockeye is,' the name's gonna be — they aren't gonna know what it is. And I end up naming it after my dog."
Cane may be a dog's name but Graves' restaurants also feature fish, not on the menu, but on the walls. Each location has a storyboard that tells about how a summer fishing in Alaska helped Graves get his start.
Years later, Graves has opened hundreds of restaurants in dozens of states, but said he's always wanted to return to Alaska and have a presence here.
In addition to the current restaurant in East Anchorage, the company plans to open one in Wasilla and another Anchorage location within the next year.
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