Open and close is an ongoing series Iwatching the comings and goings of businesses in south-central 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 dishes.
Tonkotsu ramen, with pork bones boiled overnight for broth, is “the backbone of the restaurant”, Jiahui Sim said.
She is one of two co-owners who got their start in Alaska through the J-1 Visa Cultural Exchange Program, which brings foreign students here, usually to work in the tourism and fishing industries.
Sim was a J-1 employee for Starbucks at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport over a decade ago. A few years later, she received her green card and moved to Alaska. She recruited her friend Chiiwen Choo from Alaska after they met through the program, and he is now also a resident of Alaska.
They teamed up with Leon Chew, a former chef on cruise ships and for the 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 in a small Midtown space where a Malaysian bakery previously operated.
“Business was good, like super good,” Sim said.
Then COVID-19 hit. They’ve put their expansion plans on hold – until now.
Kami means “we” in Malay, Sim said. The creation of the restaurant was a family affair, with spouses, parents and friends.
“It’s like ‘we’ are doing this,” she said.
The restaurant is open five days a week, closed Sunday and Monday for now.
The Cove Studio and Shop: Two longtime friends and former star football players from West Anchorage High School opened this art studio in downtown Anchorage last month.
Bret Roberts was a quarterback their senior year in 1992 before becoming a film actor, musician, poet and painter. During the pandemic, he left Europe and returned to Anchorage to be with his parents.
Joel Loosli was the wide receiver. He became a graphic designer with his own line of Alaska-themed clothing. He lost his job last fall as a 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. The opportunity fell into their lap: An Anchorage businessman who loved their art asked if they’d like to share offices in the Peterson Tower at 510 L St., near Simon and Seafort’s.
Their showcase was born. “The universe kind of conspired to make this happen,” Loosli said.
Now they are collaborating on art. Loosli photographs Roberts’ paintings, and the designs are used on handbags, pillows, and clothing.
“Never in a million years would one of us think that 25, 30 years after playing football together, we would be creating art together,” Loosli said. “Going from jocks to fashion designers – it’s been a cool journey.”
Roberts said he started painting after quitting drinking about a decade ago. This was important in his recovery, he said. “After sobering up, I thought life was over,” he said. “But then I realized my life started when I quit drinking.”
The shop is open to the public on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment.
Turnagain Ceramic: 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 ceramics class at West Anchorage High School. The old friends and high school football buddies hadn’t seen each other in several years when they met at a San Francisco ceramic studio five years ago.
During the pandemic, they returned to Alaska. Kubitz now works at the Southcentral Foundation as a pediatric dentist, and Fried worked remotely for a California tech company.
Last year, while skating together at Westchester Lagoon, they decided to open a studio.
Turnagain Ceramics has 16 pottery wheels, as well as kilns and storage areas. The studio offers classes, memberships and commission sales to members of ANC Market Social, the downtown outdoor market that begins May 22.
Registration for classes beginning May 13 is available at turnagainceramics.com. Doors are set to open to the public from May 23, seven days a week.
Cafe Klatsch: Geochemical consultant Birgit Hagedorn opened this organic cafe downtown because she wanted to spend more time with people after the pandemic lockdown.
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 teas and chai drinks. Mushroom powders boost immunity, energy and memory, she said.
A kaffee klatsch is a social gathering over coffee in Germany, where she is from, she said.
Hagedorn said she was teaching tai chi in the building when she saw the potential for an unused reception desk in the lobby.
She asked a contractor to extend the plumbing and electrical in the office. 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. The Kaffee Klatsch is closed on Mondays.
The Pretty Parlor brushing bar: Hairstylist 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 employed street sign dancers during tax season.
Walton provides services such as formal updates and blowouts for individuals and groups preparing 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 and have a private party with snacks and wine,” she said.
The pretty salon is closed on Sundays.
The Lexington Salon and Spa: This store opened in February in downtown Anchorage at 415 W. Fifth Ave.
“It’s a full-service day spa with body treatments, massage, waxing, facials, hair styling, spray tans — we do it all,” owner Sarah Smith said.
The salon is closed on Sundays. It is located in the space formerly occupied by Escape Salon and Spa.
Birch & Alder: This espresso cafe and drive-thru bakery opened around early March, about 25 minutes south of Anchorage in India.
It offers pastries, breakfasts, sandwiches and local drinks, such as Black Cup coffee. It’s open five days a week and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, said owner Reuben Gerber, the former chef of the Crow’s Nest at the Captain Cook hotel.
Far North Health Services: This mobile clinic provides home-based outpatient physical and occupational therapy services in Anchorage and surrounding areas. It also offers speech therapy and dietician services. The mobile clinic promotes patient independence and reduces the burden on caregivers as patients transition to living at home, in assisted living facilities or at 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 eating problems related to attached oral tissues, such as tongue tie or lip tie, and other problems related to mouth movements. mouth and face, such as mouth breathing.
Speech therapist Kayla Head opened the practice after having feeding problems with her first child born a few years ago.
“Alaska doesn’t have a good professional network in place for kids with these challenges,” she said in an email. “Our own journey is what drove 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 of operation, this Anchorage establishment closed last weekend.
The company couldn’t find enough employees to operate its two restaurants, said Steven Owens, a cook with the company. So they closed the one along the Old Seward Highway near the New Sagaya Midtown market, he said. Reduced business activity during COVID-19 shutdowns has also hurt the business, he said.
The Turnagain Arm Pit will continue to operate its original Indian restaurant along the Seward Highway about 25 minutes south of Anchorage, he said.
“If you can’t find enough employees to run two sites, you have to be somewhere,” Owens said.
Businesses in Alaska continue to report difficulty finding enough staff as tourists begin to return. The pandemic has led to record layoffs and closures, and many workers have quit their old jobs.
• • •