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 firstname.lastname@example.org with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.
Blarney Stone: This Irish pub opens Friday for St. Patrick’s Day in downtown Anchorage. It replaces McGinley’s Pub, which closed three years ago because of the pandemic, said Jack Lewis, a co-owner with both the new pub and the former one.
“We’re a beacon that things are returning,” Lewis said. “A beacon that some sort of normality is coming back.”
Blarney Stone, following a $300,000 renovation, will be cozier than the previous pub, with a new fireplace and decor and a redesigned stage to better engage audiences, he said.
Blarney Stone’s opening is a step in the continued recovery of downtown Anchorage, after the pandemic emptied streets and buildings, Lewis said.
McGinley’s closed the day before St. Patrick’s Day in 2020, a victim of pandemic-related closure mandates, he said. It had to toss thousands of dollars’ worth of food and drinks that it had on hand for that celebration, he said.
The St. Patrick’s Day events at Blarney Stone, at Seventh Avenue and G Street, begin at noon and last until midnight. Highlights include Celtic dancing and bagpipers, Irish music sessions and the string band Whiskey Jacks topping off the night starting at 8 p.m., he said.
There’ll be Irish drinks and food, like Irish corned beef sliders, homemade pretzels with beer cheese, and chicken wings with a homemade Guinness-based sauce, he said.
“It’s a whole-day extravaganza of Irish events,” Lewis said.
Inferno Seafood Boil: Tony Chheum’s newest establishment in South Anchorage has been a long time coming.
The pandemic slowdown delayed his plans by a few years, he said. But he kept paying the lease for the building and making interior upgrades, unable to let go of his dream to launch a seafood boil.
“There are times when you want to give up but you’ve got to keep going,” said Chheum, who co-owns Inferno with longtime friend Leo Duquette.
Weeks after launching, Inferno is hopping with customers. It dishes up a range of seafood, including the massive Denali Feast, which comes in a trough packed with crab, clams, mussels and other goodies.
Chheum moved to Alaska about a decade ago after growing up in California, and soon after opened PHOnatik Vietnamese Cuisine and Lounge near Dimond Boulevard and the Old Seward Highway. He later launched Benji’s Bakery and Cafe next door. Inferno, located at 321 E. Dimond Blvd., isn’t far from both of those businesses.
Chheum, the head chef at Inferno, said the restaurant grew out of his passion for gathering with friends around seafood. A key is using fresh seafood cooked just the right way, whether its boiled or steamed.
“I just love people, cooking and interaction,” said Chheum.
Honest to Dog Alaska: Three pet groomers left their jobs at a big-box pet store in Anchorage to open this grooming business in Midtown Anchorage last month.
Kendall Kyle worked at the pet store chain for more than a decade, starting while she was in high school and becoming salon manager.
Kyle and partners Jaelyn Cartwright and Brandon Varner saw an opportunity to serve pets other grooming shops couldn’t, even when those pets are unruly or suffering from, say, cancer or seizures.
“All dogs need to be groomed, especially those that are sick,” said Kyle, 29. “You can create a bond with them if you can give them a chance.”
Honest to Dog also grooms cats. Services include pet-safe hair dyes and nail polish. One chihuahua recently left looking like a tiger. The store lets dogs roam outside their kennel when possible, helping them relax before their shampoo-and-groom appointment, the owners said.
Cartwright, 23, said it was nerve-wracking planning the business last fall. But former clients have signed up and new ones have joined.
Startup loans from loved ones were key, including from Kyle’s uncle in Utah. “When he was my age, he got a similar loan starting his business,” Kyle said. “So he was like, ‘Well, now it’s my time to pay it forward.’ "
Honest to Dog is near Alaskan Burger & Brew off Arctic Boulevard and International Airport Road, at 5011 Arctic Blvd., Suite G.
Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant: This Midtown Anchorage restaurant reopened in January after shutting its doors for most of the pandemic amid closure mandates and diners’ concerns about eating out, said co-owner Dawit Ogbamichael.
Queen of Sheba almost closed forever, he said. It didn’t land the federal relief aid that many others businesses received, he said.
But anonymous donors occasionally slipped envelopes with cash through the mail slot, he said. Relatives in Africa and London recently pitched in money to help pay off old bills, he said.
“We are happy, it was a heavy burden for us when we had that much rent we hadn’t paid,” said Ogbamichael, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Samrawit Haile. “We would like to thank those people who donated money, and our customers.”
Queen of Sheba, near Dawson Street and Benson Boulevard at 2813 Dawson St., serves up poultry, lamb and beef dishes, and vegan and vegetarian meals like stews made from lentil and alicha. The restaurant has begun serving breakfasts starting at 7 a.m. daily, in addition to lunches and dinners. It also plans to bottle and sell its caffeine-free herbal tea from Ethiopia.
“The tourist season is coming, the virus is behind us, and that means nothing can stop us,” Ogbamichael said.
Soda & S’more: This bakery and cafe opened its third store last month in South Anchorage.
It serves mixed sodas, breakfast sandwiches, toasted s’mores with various chocolates and cookies, including rotating varieties like cinnamon toast crunch. There are also pastries, scones and a full coffee bar from Caffe D’Arte, the previous business at the location.
Soda & S’more is closed Sundays. It’s located at 223 E. Dimond Blvd., east of the intersection of King Street and Dimond.
Lynnsey Kimball and Ashley Baker founded Soda & S’more in mid-2020 in Eagle River and opened the second one at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
“Everything is made in-house,” Kimball said.
Zip Kombucha: This brewery has expanded at a new store in South Anchorage after closing its location off Arctic Boulevard in December, said co-owner Jessie Janes.
“We are now both a brewery and a winery,” said Janes, also a major in the Alaska Air National Guard.
Zip Kombucha sells ciders, red wines and mead. There’s also hard kombucha, like the “Up Early” with lime and mint, and non-alcoholic kombucha, such as the “Skinny Raven” with green tea, blackberry and peach.
They also sell pizza by the slice, Janes said. It’s located at 8161 Schoon St., about a block east of Turnagain Brewing.
FisheWear: Selling women’s clothing and gear with fish-based designs, FisheWear opened a second location in downtown Anchorage last week, complementing its first store in Midtown Anchorage off Arctic Boulevard.
Owner Linda Leary started the company about eight years ago after the previous business she co-owned, Carlile Transportation Systems, was sold.
“I loved fish and grew up fishing, and I found there was this niche missing for women to have clothing and gear,” she said.
The store sells colorful items useful for fishing and other outdoor activities, like dry bags, wading gear, leggings, fleece tops, jackets and hoodies.
“We like building confidence in women to get out and enjoy the outdoors or do yoga or stay at home or whatever they want to do,” Leary said.
The new store is at the corner of Fourth Avenue and G Street, at 704 W. Fourth. Ave. It’s open for now from Thursday to Saturday. The goal is to open every day but Sunday as FisheWear hires more employees.
Basecamp Food+Drinks: This Girdwood eatery offers everything from burgers to Cajun pasta to poke bowls, said manager Michael Bowyer.
It’s been busy after launching in October, especially as the day ski crowd leaves the mountain at Alyeska Resort, said Bowyer. It recently got a beer and wine license, he said.
Skis on the wall and climbing gear add an outdoorsy feel. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., in Girdwood’s town square at 194 Hightower Road.
Jersey Mike’s Subs: The sandwich chain with more than 2,000 stores is coming to Alaska in May, said Fred Rosenberg, the Jersey Mike’s franchise owner in the state.
A South Anchorage spot is being remodeled off Abbott Road and East 88th Avenue, near Taco King and the Carrs Safeway grocery store. Another shop is under construction in Wasilla off the Parks Highway, the company website says.
Rosenberg, who also owns the Red Robin franchise in Alaska, said he wanted to bring Jersey Mike’s to Alaska after eating there. Ingredients are prepared fresh, including meat and cheeses sliced on the spot and bread baked daily.
“A lot of sandwich places all have their specialties, but this was over-the-top good,” he said.
Crumbl: Alaska’s second Crumbl opened last month in South Anchorage, joining one at Tikahtnu Commons mall that launched last year.
Camille and Owen Ala own the Crumbl franchise rights in Alaska, part of a fast-growing Utah-based chain that sells cookies, from milk-chocolate chip to rotating varieties like “Buttermilk Pancake” and “Galaxy Brownie.”
Owen, a surgeon, and Camille, an accountant, grew up in Alaska and returned about a decade ago after attending Outside colleges.
Camille said she liked the chain’s mission of bringing people together over cookies, which are made from scratch in-store, she said. She employs about 100 people, mostly teens, she said.
“It’s more than just cookies to me,” she said. “I feel like we’re really bringing good to Anchorage.”
The new Crumbl is south of Dimond Boulevard, near the Walmart at 8840 Old Seward Highway, Unit A.
FashionPact: This boutique thrift and consignment store planned to open its second location in South Anchorage when the roof partially collapsed at its original shop near downtown — one of multiple roof collapses in Anchorage after heavy snowfall this winter.
Fortunately, the stored items for the new store were in the part of the building that wasn’t destroyed, said founder Brittani Clancey.
The new store opens at 11 a.m. Friday at 221 E. Dimond Blvd.
FashionPact lets clothing donors and shoppers earmark part of each sale to benefit a nonprofit of their choice. The store announced last fall it had raised more than $100,000 for dozens of nonprofits, and that figure keeps growing, Clancey said.
Quality Transmission Service: This transmission business has temporarily moved to a new spot across Dowling Road after its roof partially crumbled last weekend.
A friend offered warehouse space at 166 E. Potter Drive, said shop owner Greene Nickell. The temporary location is near the Unleashed Alaska indoor dog park, north of the Potter Drive and Dowling Road intersection.
Nickell said Quality Transmission has been extremely busy this year. A good crew made the transition easy and quick, despite the roof collapse, he said.