Go west on Commercial Drive, past the car wash and the smoke shop, and you’ll see an unpaved lot that stands out from the rest.
There’s a picnic table out front, a little white house in the back and a few old campers parked around the yard. One sign advertises a 24/7 window repair business; another promises “Yup’ik gold & silver.” A giant coffee cup rests on a massive spinning saucer by the driveway. A partially rebuilt ’68 Dodge Charger sits next to a stack of tires nearby.
The lot – and everything on it – is Jack Vinson’s best hope.
Three summers ago, his 12-year-old son was struck by a car while riding his bike along Patterson Street. Vinson still keeps a laminated copy of the Anchorage Daily News report about the crash: It barely made 100 words, but it changed their lives forever.
The collision paralyzed Vinson’s son from the chest down. He spent his 13th birthday in a coma. The medical bills topped $1 million, and there wasn’t nearly enough insurance money.
Vinson, living with his own disability, began scrambling for ways to make money, he says. He rents the lot on Commercial Drive in the hopes of opening a business.
He tried a 24-hour coffee cart, a drive-in theater and a secondhand store. Nothing ever took off, so Vinson sells odds and ends and keeps looking for an idea that sticks. Maybe there’s room for a food truck on the lot, he says. Maybe he can sell one of the campers to bring in a little more cash.
“Everything here is to make money for my son,” he said. “All this is just to keep us going. Everything is for sale.”