Open & Shut is an ongoing series looking at the comings and goings of businesses in Southcentral Alaska. If you know of a business opening or closing in the area, send a note to reporter Alex DeMarban at [email protected] with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.
Kami Ramen: Three Malaysian friends opened this ramen restaurant in Spenard last month.
The menu at 3807 Spenard Road, just west of Minnesota Drive, features Japanese ramen with Malaysian and other influences. Kami Ramen serves vegetarian and gluten-free ramen, in addition to meat-based dishes.
Tonkotsu ramen, with pork bones boiled overnight for the broth, is “the backbone of the restaurant,” Jiahui Sim said.
She’s one of the two co-owners who got their start in Alaska from the J-1 visa cultural exchange program, which brings foreign college students here, typically to work in the tourism and fishing industries.
Sim was a J-1 worker for Starbucks at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport more than a decade ago. A few years later, she received her green card and moved to Alaska. She recruited her friend Chiiwen Choo to Alaska after they had met through the program, and he’s now an Alaska resident too.
They teamed up with Leon Chew, a former chef on cruise ships and for North Slope oil companies. Chew, the third co-owner, is now a well-testing technician for oil companies.
Before the pandemic hit, they opened Kami Ramen as a pop-up business for several weeks out of a small space in Midtown where a Malaysian bakery had formerly operated.
“Business was good, like super good,” Sim said.
Then COVID-19 hit. They paused their expansion plans — until now.
Kami means “us” in the Malay language, Sim said. Creating the restaurant has been a family affair, with spouses, relatives and friends pitching in.
“Its like, this is ‘us’ doing this,” she said.
The restaurant is open five days a week, closing on Sundays and Mondays for now.
The Cove Studio & Boutique: Two longtime friends and former star football players at West Anchorage High School opened this art studio in downtown Anchorage last month.
Bret Roberts was quarterback their senior year in 1992 before becoming a movie actor, musician, poet and painter. During the pandemic, he left Europe and moved back to Anchorage to be with his parents.
Joel Loosli was the wide receiver. He became a graphic artist with his own Alaska-themed clothing line. He lost his job last fall as sales manager at Truckwell of Alaska, just before the work-truck outfitter closed.
During the pandemic, the two friends dreamed of owning an art studio. Opportunity fell into their lap: An Anchorage businessman who liked their art asked if they’d like to split office space in the Peterson Tower at 510 L St., near Simon and Seafort’s.
Their storefront was born. “The universe kind of conspired to make it happen,” Loosli said.
Now, they’re collaborating on art. Loosli photographs Roberts’ paintings, and the designs are used on handbags, pillows and clothing.
“Never in a million years would either of us (have) thought that 25, 30 years after playing football together that we’d be creating art together,” Loosli said. “To go from jocks to fashion designers — it’s been a cool journey.”
Roberts said he took up painting after quitting drinking about a decade ago. It’s been important in his recovery, he said. “After I sobered up, I thought life was over,” he said. “But then I realized my life began when I stopped drinking.”
The boutique is open to the public on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and by appointment.
Turnagain Ceramics: Max Kubitz and Evan Fried are opening this community pottery space at 1343 G St., in the former location of Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop.
They were introduced to pottery about 15 years ago during ceramic classes at West Anchorage High School. The old friends and high school soccer mates hadn’t seen each other in several years when they ran into each other at a San Francisco ceramics studio five years ago.
During the pandemic, they returned to Alaska. Kubitz now works at Southcentral Foundation as a pediatric dentist, and Fried worked remotely for a California tech company.
Last year, while ice skating together at Westchester Lagoon, they decided to open a studio.
Turnagain Ceramics has 16 pottery wheels, plus kilns and storage areas. The studio is offering classes, memberships and commission-based sales for members at the ANC Market Social, the downtown outdoor market that begins May 22.
Sign-up for classes beginning May 13 is available at turnagainceramics.com. The doors are set to open to the public starting May 23, seven days a week.
Kaffee Klatsch: Geochemical consultant Birgit Hagedorn started this organic cafe downtown because she wanted to spend more time with people after the isolation of the pandemic.
Kaffee Klatsch — in the Skyline Building at 508 W. Second Ave., just north of the Hilton Anchorage — serves German pastries, lattes and coffee. It also sells mushroom-infused chai teas and drinks. The mushroom powders boost immunity, energy and memory, she said.
A kaffee klatsch is a social gathering over coffee in Germany, where she’s originally from, she said.
Hagedorn said she was teaching tai chi in the building when she saw potential in an unused reception desk in the lobby.
She had a contractor extend plumbing and electricity to the desk. She bought an espresso machine and added shelving and seating to launch Kaffee Klatsch.
The cafe tries to buy only locally made products, Hagedorn said. Kaffee Klatsch is closed on Mondays.
The Pretty Parlor Blow Dry Bar: Hair stylist Jessica Bryant Walton wanted a space where friends could get their hair done together.
In February she opened this salon at 2932 C St., at the corner of Benson Boulevard and C, in the same building where Liberty Tax Service has employed dancers with street signs during tax season.
Walton provides services such as formal updos and blowouts for individuals and groups getting ready for events such as proms. The space is available for private parties.
“It’s like a girls night out. So they can close the space down and have a private party with snacks and wine,” she said.
The Pretty Parlor is closed on Sundays.
The Lexington Salon and Spa: This shop opened in February in downtown Anchorage at 415 W. Fifth Ave.
“It’s a full-service day spa with body treatment, massage, waxing, facials, hair styling, spray tan — we do everything,” said owner Sarah Smith.
The salon is closed on Sundays. It’s located in the space formerly occupied by Escape Salon and Spa.
Birch & Alder: This drive-thru espresso coffee shop and bakery opened around early March, about 25 minutes south of Anchorage in Indian.
It provides pastries, breakfasts, sandwiches and locally made drinks, such as Black Cup coffee. It’s open five days a week, and closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays, said owner Reuben Gerber, the former chef at the Crow’s Nest in the Hotel Captain Cook.
Far North Health Services: This mobile clinic offers outpatient physical and occupational therapy in people’s homes in Anchorage and surrounding areas. It also offers speech therapy and registered dietitian services. The clinic on wheels promotes patient independence and reduces caretaker burdens as patients transition to living at home, in assisted living facilities, or the Brother Francis shelter, said Erin McCurdy, co-owner and physical therapist.
Little Loon Pediatric Therapy: This pediatric therapy clinic in Wasilla focuses on speech and feeding issues related to tethered oral tissues, such as tongue tie or lip tie, and other issues related to mouth and face movement, like mouth breathing.
Speech-language pathologist Kayla Head opened the practice after she had feeding problems with her first child born a few years ago.
“Alaska does not have a good professional network set up for kids with these struggles,” she said in an email. “Our own journey is what spurred me to learn and train as much as possible.”
The clinic is located at 501 N. Knik St.
Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ in Anchorage: After nine years in operation, this Anchorage establishment closed last weekend.
The company couldn’t find enough employees to operate its two restaurants, said Steven Owens, a cook for the business. So they closed the one along the Old Seward Highway, near New Sagaya Midtown Market, he said. Reduced business activity during COVID-19 shutdowns also hurt the company, he said.
The Turnagain Arm Pit will keep running its original restaurant in Indian along the Seward Highway about 25 minutes south of Anchorage, he said.
“If you can’t find enough employees to run two locations, you got to be somewhere,” Owens said.
Businesses in Alaska continue to report challenges finding enough staff, as tourists begin to return. The pandemic led to record layoffs and shutdowns, and many workers left their former jobs.
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