The Farmers Market Senator

Sen. Lisa Murkowski helps her son sell his colorful line of pasta

Matt Martell, left, and his mom work their booth at the South Anchorage Farmers Market last Saturday. (Courtesy Sen. Lisa Murkowski)
Matt Martell, left, and his mom work their booth at the South Anchorage Farmers Market last Saturday. (Courtesy Sen. Lisa Murkowski)
Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:00am

Anchorage residents do a double take when they see one of Alaska’s most recognizable faces looking back at them across a table dishing up pasta.  

Between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays, when she can make the 10-hour trip home, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski helps her son at the South Anchorage Farmers Market.  

“It’s kind of interesting because we’re there at a table with a tent over us and we’re selling ravioli and fettuccine and the thick spaghetti and shells and people walk by and they see me there and they see this pasta,” she said. “They get this very confused look like ‘What is she doing? What’s the deal?’”  

Murkowski’s husband, Verne Martell, had owned the pasta manufacturing business, Alaska Pasta Company, for 27 years. He’s always manufactured strictly for wholesale.

The company was small enough that it rarely had more than one employee. Murkowski said her husband was looking to sell the company, “but it came back to him.”

“My son says, ‘Hey, I just graduated with a degree in business. I don’t want to work for anybody else. I want to buy the pasta company.’”

Matt Martell studied business at Western State Colorado University. The 23-year-old graduated last year and is now running the business and decided to take it retail.  

“Well, you work your way into it by starting out small,” Murkowski said. “Ever since the second Sunday in May now, he has been selling his pasta at the South Anchorage Farmers Market.”  

Every Sunday until the end of August, he sets up his stand at the market. Among the stands of rhubarb, salmon, radish bouquets, oysters and macaroni, Matt Martell is successful at standing out with his colorful selection of pastas.    

“He’s trying to make money so he doesn’t want to pay anybody to come and help him. So I’m a good mom and I am there helping him,” Murkowski said.  

“And besides that, I’m a shameless promoter of his product like any mother would be for a child. He won’t say good things about it and I can just gush on.”  

Once shoppers do their double take, they tend to circle back around to their stand and ask Murkowski what’s going on.  

“Next thing you know you’re talking about pasta,” she said. “And they say, I kind of like the mushroom feta. Or maybe I want the smoked salmon. So he makes a sale.”


Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.