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@example.com with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.
Fresh Bowl Kitchen: A distinctive building along Northern Lights Boulevard, once home to the Office Lounge with its rotating bar and crown-shaped exterior, has a new look.
The renovated building is also home to new businesses.
Two of them are owned by the Marsch family, which owns and has been renovating the site, located directly across from the Midtown Mall at 545 E. Northern Lights Blvd., said Kurt Marsch. He runs the businesses with his son, Paul.
Fresh Bowl Kitchen opened two weeks ago. It’s a fast-casual style eatery where diners choose fresh fixings for a salad or rice bowl, such as a teriyaki chicken dish. Real-fruit smoothies, sandwiches and other items are also available.
The space inside is brightly redesigned, with an open kitchen, cozy fireplace and plenty of seating. The food is available for pickup or delivery, and online orders can be made well in advance.
“It’s designed to be quick, with fresh food right in front of you, and you can tailor it to meet your own particular taste profile,” Marsch said. “We call it DYO, design-your-own food. You direct us on what to do, but we do it in front of you in a hygienically safe manner.”
Fresh Bowl is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Northern Lights Toys: The Marsch family also just opened Northern Lights Toys in the same building. The store sells activity-based toys focused on STEAM concepts: science, technology, engineering, arts and math. That means building kits, games and indoor and outdoor gear like inflatable sledding tubes or floor hockey.
The idea is to get kids and teens interacting with parents and off their phones, Marsch said.
Marsch said his family ran the former Electronic Solutions stores that was the Radio Shack dealer in town for many years. Selling toys like remote control cars or electronic gadgets there was a blast, he said, so the family opened Northern Lights Toys.
Marsch said he hopes the remodel at the building, which includes lots of new parking in the back, attracts new businesses and brings new investment to the area, just across the street from the freshly remodeled Midtown Mall. The Bead Shack, with its rows of beads for making jewelry and other items, is one new tenant, after moving from its previous location farther west on Northern Lights.
As for the Office Lounge, which closed in 2017, the rotating bar is no more. Marsch said the family is looking at opening another business there in the future, but not a bar like before.
Spenard Grinds: This drive-thru coffee hut is a small part of the revival of Spenard, its owner said.
Paul and Becky Berger, who own the Carousel Lounge near new residential buildings installed by Cook Inlet Housing Authority, purchased the coffee hut earlier this year at 3208 Spenard Road, Paul Berger said.
The couple paved the overgrown lot, removed the chain link fence around it, and upgraded the hut, he said. They changed the name to Spenard Grinds. It features Kaladi coffee, Lotus energy drinks and high-tech service designed to get customers in and out quickly, with app-based orders that can be made from in the line or wherever, he said.
“The neighborhood is slowly coming up and we’re trying to be good neighbors” and a positive part of the community, Paul Berger said.
Bema Café: This coffee shop opened last week in the Olympic Center at 36th and Arctic, in place of the former Uncle Leroy’s Coffee.
Bema is adjacent to Sweet Caribou, the artisan dessert and lunch bowl maker. The coffee beans are from Bema Coffee roasters.
Alongside a full coffee bar, Bema serves oven-roasted breakfast burritos for a quick meal, including the vegetarian Chitina Chickpea with chickpea, roasted red peppers and potatoes, scrambled eggs and chimichurri sauce, said owner James Strong.
James Strong, the owner of both businesses, said the café is under limited hours Tuesday through Saturday, opening at 6 a.m. on weekdays, and closing at 2 p.m. each day.
Strong hopes to expand hours in the future, he said. The pandemic-related labor shortage has made it hard to find enough workers.
“It’s a tricky thing,” he said. “Adding a sixth day requires finding another layer of employees.”
The Workshop: Educators, music instructors, home-schoolers and others need meeting space in South Anchorage, said Leeanna Chronister.
So Chronister is opening a membership-based, 4,000-square-foot community center on Nov. 21, next to Aurora Kids Gymnastics, at 1120 Huffman Road, Suite 11.
The large space will provide community classrooms and study areas, an art studio, a soundproof music room, a play corner and other areas.
“We are putting in a small stage for recitals with room (for) about 40-50 chairs,” Chronister said.
Chronister said Alaska’s home-school population is large and growing, but there’s not a lot of places in Anchorage for classes to meet, outside of homes. Teachers and musicians also need space for private lessons.
A Lego club has already signed up as one member. The demand for rooms is strong, she said.
“We’re hosting anything that brings value to the community,” Chronister said.
Central Welding Supply: This Washington-based company just opened its first shop in Anchorage, selling welding products in Mountain View north of Merrill Field.
The company also opened a shop in Fairbanks earlier this year, and in Wasilla five years ago.
Officials with the company said there’s a strong hobbyist welding community in do-it-yourself Alaska, along with demand from industry, and vocational programs as welders age out of the industry.
“Nationally, it’s one of the biggest industries for students and schools, because you have all those baby boomers exiting the market,” said Debra Malmos, the company’s creative director.
The shop at 2345 E. Fourth Ave. and the other stores in Alaska provide deliveries, rentals and equipment repair services.
Blarney Stone: McGinley’s Pub in downtown has been shut down since the start of the pandemic.
It will be back next year as Blarney Stone, hopefully around the time of Anchorage’s Fur Rondy celebration in late February and St. Patrick’s Day, said Jack Lewis, a part-owner of the pub and other Anchorage establishments.
Lewis said he’s currently working on design concepts with an Irish pub expert. The plans call for a new look, a new entrance, and more of an Irish pub atmosphere — in other words, a cozy bar focused on Irish fare and music, and socializing.
Lewis and other business partners have been with the pub since its first days about 15 years ago. Others decided to leave the partnership during the pandemic for personal reasons, such as former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, the founder. The pub never got enough pandemic-related aid to offset its losses from being closed, Lewis said.
Downtown is undergoing lots of upgrades, and the pub at 645 G St. will be another one, he said.
“I’m hoping we’re part of the continued resurgence in downtown,” he said.
Starbucks: A new Starbucks opened at 1160 Huffman Park Drive, near the new Sonic. The chain has more than 25 locations in Anchorage and Eagle River.
Vīb/Cycle: This South Anchorage cycling studio, at 160 W. 91st Ave., Suite C, closed on Friday after four years in business, the company said on a Facebook post.
The closure followed a dispute with the landlord, it said.
“After much heartache and debate, we came to the very difficult decision that we really just do not have the resources to do a buildout, and start all over again,” the statement said.
Riehl Sew N’ Vac: This appliance store closed after about four decades in business, selling off excess appliances in an Oct. 30 auction.
The company’s landlord at 3400 Spenard Road said on Facebook that it was grateful to have the family business as its neighbor and tenant.
“A heartfelt thank you to Riehl Sew N Vac and the Hamm family for serving our neighborhood and community,” said Cook Inlet Housing Authority, headquartered nearby, on Facebook. “For more than 39 years, Riehl has been an Anchorage landmark and one of the city’s leading providers for vacuum cleaners, quilting and sewing machines and tools, accessories and thread, sewing cabinetry, and more, as well as experts in repair and upkeep.”