Udder Culture featuring Aurora Sweets owners Windy Swearingin, Kelly Swearingin and Randi Pearce pose in their shop on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Udder Culture featuring Aurora Sweets owners Windy Swearingin, Kelly Swearingin and Randi Pearce pose in their shop on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Udderly Merged: After three decades, local sandwich-sweet shop sells to competitor

No big changes slated yet for faith-centered sandwich shop

When specialty ice cream shop Aurora Sweets opened two years ago, it created competition for a longtime fixture down the hall of Mendenhall Mall.

But it was actually well timed.

Udder Culture, a mom-and-pop frozen yogurt and sandwich shop that has been in business for over 34 years, was searching for new ownership, as business owner Dan Penrose readied to retire. A longtime Udder Culture employee, Randi Pearce, knocked on Aurora Sweets’ door earlier this year, inquiring whether they would like to take it over.

The answer was yes. And they wanted Pearce to be a part of the venture, too.

“Dan has really created a wonderful business, and we didn’t want to see it close,” Windy Swearingin said. Swearingin opened Aurora Sweets in the fall of 2017 with her husband, Kelly.

“We thought bringing in Aurora Sweets, bringing in our milkshakes, our coffee, could just strengthen the business,” she added.

The Swearingins and Pearce took ownership of Udder Culture on Nov. 18, a day after Aurora Sweets closed down for good.

They plan to bring forth some more changes with the merge — tacking on “featuring Aurora Sweets” to the name, for instance — but said most things will remain the same.

“There are definitely some things that we’re going to change, and some things that we’re going to make our own,” Windy said. “But we do want to keep his motif a little bit.”

Udder Culture featuring Aurora Sweets co-owner Randi Pearce rings up a customer on Tuesday Dec. 10, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Udder Culture featuring Aurora Sweets co-owner Randi Pearce rings up a customer on Tuesday Dec. 10, 2019. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Udder Culture has decor displaying Christian faith — the shop plays Christian music and hangs Bible verses on its walls.

For Pearce, it marks an exciting return to the business. Pearce rejoined the Udder Culture staff about a year ago when Penrose pitched the idea of taking over. The merging now means she has all of his sandwich and soup recipes.

“He was looking at retiring when I came back,” Pearce said. “He said, ‘You might be the answer to my prayers.’”

Pearce first worked at Udder Culture from 1993-1996 and holds Penrose and his business in high regard. Pearce said that the Christian faith was evident in Penrose’s business style, noting it wasn’t uncommon for Penrose to give workers who had not worked out a second chance.

“It’s the Christian morals and stuff that Dan instilled with all of us — treat others as Jesus would; do unto others as you would have done unto yourself, that kind of attitude,” Pearce said. “He always kept this environment so peaceful and happy. This was one of the happiest times I could remember in my life, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to come back here.”

Udder Culture featuring Aurora Sweets employee Karlin Davis makes a sandwich on Dec. 10, 2019. Davis has worked at the sandwich shop since 2008. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Udder Culture featuring Aurora Sweets employee Karlin Davis makes a sandwich on Dec. 10, 2019. Davis has worked at the sandwich shop since 2008. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Udder Culture has been at its current location since the mid-1980s. Penrose declined an interview, but one of his longtime employees, Karlin Davis, said he was owner 34 years. Davis has worked at Udder Culture since 2008.

“I’ve worked all of the shifts possible to work at this job without being the owner,” Davis said. “Overall, I’ve loved working for Dan, and I’ve been enjoying working for Randi and just the takeover of her taking over morning shifts (for Dan) and running things. There’s been a few bumps in the road, just with technology and the learning of technology, but other than that, the sandwiches are the same. Everyone is enjoying their food.”

Aurora Sweets needed a move sooner or later, Kelly Swearingin said. The size of the old space — about 800-square feet — and the fact it was accessible only from inside the mall both limited its growth possibilities.

“It was almost like a godsend,” Kelly said of being approached by Udder Culture.

In addition to adding their milkshakes to the menu, the new owners also plan to install a coffee bar similar to what they had before.

“It will still be Udder Culture, it’s just going to have a mixture of Aurora Sweets in there too,” Windy said.


• Contact reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com.


More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, April 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Newly elected tribal leaders are sworn in during the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s 89th annual Tribal Assembly on Thursday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Photo courtesy of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
New council leaders, citizen of year, emerging leader elected at 89th Tribal Assembly

Tlingit and Haida President Chalyee Éesh Richard Peterson elected unopposed to sixth two-year term.

A waterfront view of Marine Parking Garage with the windows of the Juneau Public Library visible on the top floor. “Welcome” signs in several languages greet ships on the dock pilings below. (Laurie Craig / For the Juneau Empire)
The story of the Marine Parking Garage: Saved by the library

After surviving lawsuit by Gold Rush-era persona, building is a modern landmark of art and function.

A troller plies the waters of Sitka Sound in 2023. (Photo by Max Graham)
Alaska Senate proposes $7.5 million aid package for struggling fish processors

The Alaska Senate has proposed a new aid package for the state’s… Continue reading

Current facilities operated by the private nonprofit Gastineau Human Services Corp. include a halfway house for just-released prisoners, a residential substance abuse treatment program and a 20-bed transitional living facility. (Gastineau Human Services Corp. photo)
Proposed 51-unit low-income, long-term housing project for people in recovery gets big boost from Assembly

Members vote 6-2 to declare intent to provide $2M in budget to help secure $9.5M more for project.

Members of the Alaska House of Representatives watch as votes are tallied on House Bill 50, the carbon storage legislation, on Wednesday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House, seeking to boost oil and gas business, approves carbon storage bill

Story votes yes, Hannan votes no as governor-backed HB 50 sent to the state Senate for further work.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, April 16, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read