FAIRBANKS — Isaac Valdez works in customer service, so he appreciates being on the receiving end of good service.

“It’s one of the first things that I notice anytime I walk into a business,” he said.

Valdez said he passes about six places on his way to town to where he knows he can get a good cup of coffee. He heads for Bucko’s Coffee on Bentley Trust Road near the old Sam’s Club where the baristas have Valdez’s drink ready for him when he pulls up to the drive-thru window.  

“They know what I like,” said the acting district manager for Verizon. “I get amazing customer service every time.”

It’s no accident, according to the proprietors of the family owned drive-thru, which brews Kaladi Brothers Coffee and also offers blended drinks, bagels, muffins, treats and sandwiches. The goal at Bucko’s is not only to put a good cup of coffee in customers’ hands but also smiles on their faces.

“We are selling love, the experience. We put a lot of energy into that,” said owner Aaron Boggs, who operates the espresso business with his wife, Amber, and his father, Joel.

Bucko’s opened in 2016 within a mile of at least a half-dozen places where espresso is sold, including three Starbucks locations. The coffee business immediately sought to distinguish itself as a place eager to connect with people and build a loyal clientele. At its grand opening, employees gave out free coffee, causing a traffic jam on College Road and using about 100 pounds of coffee. Customers get a free cup of coffee on their birthdays. Boggs said he has paused from his work to pray with a customer in need of emotional support. Amber Boggs said they select baristas carefully, looking for people with cheerful dispositions. No Debbie Downers. 

The company is modeled after the Oregon-based Dutch Bros. franchise, which is known for its core value to create a positive experience for customers. “We may be a coffee company, but we are in the relationship business,” according to the Dutch Bros. website.

Joel Boggs said he sought to bring Dutch Bros. to Alaska. When that didn’t work out, the Boggs family decided to build their own coffee drive-thru from scratch. The name Bucko’s hearkens back to Joel’s childhood, when people used the word as a term of endearment for a lively or swaggering boy. The family discussed business names, and Bucko’s is what stuck, Boggs said. From that grew the Southwestern theme. A kicking bull is a part of the company logo. The Rattler is their name for a dark chocolate mocha. A six-shot espresso with caramel and vanilla is known as the 6-shooter. They also have the Outlaw, an espresso with Irish cream. Hot or iced coffee is $4 for a small, $4.50 for a medium and $5 for a large. Next door to the coffee drive-thru is the family’s Bad to the Cone Ice Cream business, open seasonally and offering outdoor seating, where people can purchase hand-dipped bars and hard-pack ice cream. 

The Boggs family is a family of painters. Joel Boggs owns Fineline Painting. In 2000, they moved to Oregon but would return to Alaska for work. The family moved back to Alaska for good in 2012, after son Jordan Boggs was killed in a collision with a drunken driver. In 2016, tragedy struck again when Rita Boggs, the boys’ mother, died of an illness after helping to get the espresso drive-thru off the ground. The surviving Boggses said they consider the espresso business a tribute to their lost kin. 

Aaron Boggs said he remembers talking with his brother about opening a coffee drive-

thru that would take the whole drive-thru concept in Fairbanks to the next level. To their thinking, Fairbanks needed an upscale coffee drive-thru with an uplifting vibe, including music and happy, attentive employees. 

Kena Johnson said the people at Bucko’s make getting coffee fun. 

“My 3-year-old daughter even knows Bucko’s,” said Johnson, a self-employed pet sitter and trainer. “We drive by and she is like, ‘Mama, coffee.’”

The baristas are encouraged to keep their attention to the drive-up windows, Amber Boggs said. They don’t want people pulling up and feeling ignored. They want customers to feel like they are among friends. 

“That is our intention,” she said. “If you are making relationships with the customers, they come back.”

Bucko’s supports the Young Life ministry and is active on Instagram. 

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter:

@FDNMborough.