Open & Shut: Anchorage gets a new soul food restaurant, a brewery and a shop that sells crystal and glitter body art

Also opening: A new boba tea shop, a thrift store, and a cafe/coffee roasting business. Holiday Stationstores are also being converted to Circle Ks.

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 with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.


Mama Carol’s: This northeast Anchorage restaurant carries on the legacy of soul food diners run by the Wyche family in Anchorage.

Owner and chef Rosalyn Wyche was a blur in the kitchen at lunchtime on a recent weekday, dishing up fresh fried catfish sandwiches, gumbo with king crab, plates of pulled pork sandwiches and fries, and sides of fried okra.

“We welcome you!” she shouted toward the door, as patrons filtered in.

Mama Carol’s Soul Food Catering and Events opened in December at 341 Boniface Parkway, in a retail center just south of the Glenn Highway.

Anchorage state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson attended the ribbon-cutting. So did a representative from Mayor Dave Bronson’s office.

Besides a wide selection of freshly made food, Mama Carol’s serves cafe-style dishes at the counter. There’s smothered pork chops, varieties of chicken, oxtails with gravy, pig’s feet, candied yams, plantains, mashed potatoes, various rices and beans, and cornbread and buns. Also on the menu are entrees such as baby back ribs, and appetizers like honey barbecue chicken wings.

Wyche said her customers are a mix of all races and colors. Everyone gets treated like family.


“We cook from the soul,” she said. “We cook with love. We cook with the intensity that when you walk through the door, we want you to be happy, we want you to be excited, and we want it to feel like a home-cooked meal.”

The restaurant is named after her late mom, Carol Wyche. Carol once helped run the family’s first Anchorage restaurant on Government Hill, Roscoe’s Skyline Restaurant. That spot closed decades ago, after a fire.

The restaurant still employs her mother’s recipes, though, including peach cobbler and sweet potato pie, Wyche said.

Her brother Roscoe Wyche III, a longtime soul food restaurateur in Anchorage, owned his latest restaurant at the same spot. He closed it last year, making room for Mama Carol’s, Rosalyn said.

She said he’s looking to retire, but she still calls him for cooking and business advice.

Customer Antavia Hamilton sat a table Thursday, waiting for a friend. She said she’s a regular and loves the catfish sandwich.

“This has become our gathering place,” she said. ”We get a good meal and we see friendly faces. And it’s delicious.”

Wyche said that before Mama Carol’s officially opened, it served more than 200 plates of free Thanksgiving dinners. Free Thanksgiving meals will be a Mama Carol’s tradition, she said.

Mama Carol’s is closed Sundays and Mondays, but open all other days from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Bear Bubble Tea: This boba tea shop opened last week in South Anchorage to lines of customers snaking out the door.

Charles Ang and his fiancee, Perly Chumkhun, said they’re boba tea “fanatics,” so they launched Bear Bubble Tea at 217 E. Dimond Blvd., off Dimond and King Street.

The drink originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. It’s made with milk and tea and comes with tapioca pearls, the boba, that are like bubbles at the bottom.


Ang said he grew up in California where boba tea shops are common, but he’s originally from the Philippines. He and Chumkhun, originally from Thailand, have been perfecting their bubble tea recipe for the last couple of years, he said Friday.

The couple always visits bubble tea shops in the Lower 48 when they travel, they said. They brew their own tea at the shop, marinating the boba with brown sugar. Many of their ingredients are organic, Chumkhun said.

The store is scheduled to be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except for Mondays when it is closed.

But Bear Bubble Tea has been so busy it’s had to close early to restock on some days, Ang said. It’s not currently serving shave ice and handmade bagels as planned, due to the bubble tea demand, he said.

In addition to several teas and other drinks like the Mango Refresher, they serve coffees, such as the espresso ice-frappe with salted cheese foam. Customers can get extras in the bubble teas such as custard puddings, flavored jelly cubes or strawberry pearls.

Ang said the couple helped open the Royal Thai restaurant about five years ago. It’s next door to Bear Bubble Tea and is owned by Chumkhun’s mother.


AK Thrift Store: An Anchorage couple’s online business selling vintage items grew so much that they opened this thrift store in Northeast Anchorage late last year.

AK Thrift Store sells “a little bit of everything,” said Jeremy Harrell, who runs the store with his girlfriend, Mindy Cowdery. His mother, Mary Harrell, also volunteers there.

The business sells clothing for all shapes, sizes and ages, plus lots of kitchenware and power tools, Cowdery said. There are collectible items like sports cards, Fur Rondy buttons, old cameras and vintage jewelry. On a recent day, a World War II bayonet, 19th century cookbook and 1919 radio were also for sale.

“We’re here to help the community afford some things they may not normally be able to,” Cowdery said.

Everything is carefully picked so the merchandise is “cool and rare,” the couple likes to say. It’s a family friendly spot, and there’s a Pac-Man arcade game for kids to play while parents shop, she said.

Harrell said the couple wanted to generate extra income and find financial freedom after leaving careers in other industries.


He was a North Slope electrician. She sold insurance.

“We just really enjoy the hunt to find treasures,” he said.

“I was tired of the stress related to sales-driven goals and sitting on my butt eight hours a day behind a computer,” Cowdery said.

The couple originally met long ago as students at Wendler Middle School. They met again a couple of years ago and started dating.

They sold knickknacks on eBay, and learned it was an easy way to make money. Now, they’re putting in 14-hour shifts.

The work includes washing every item before displaying it, so the store smells fresh, not like cigarettes or old pets like some thrift stores, he said.

AK Thrift Store is located next door to Mama Carol’s, at 341 Boniface Parkway. It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on Sundays when doors close an hour early. It’s closed on Mondays.

Raw Crystal Collective: Brooke Moore was a college art student in Oregon when she started experimenting with glitter as body art, applying it on friends’ faces.


It was so popular that when she returned home to Alaska, she began decorating faces at festivals with biodegradable glitter. She creates dazzling designs across the face, sometimes adding touches like dried flowers or disco-ball mirror pieces.

Now Raw Crystal Collective, as her business is called, has opened a storefront near the Midtown Anchorage area. It’s located in business condominiums off Arctic and 58th, at 720 W. 58th Ave.

Raw Crystal sells crystals of course, plus jewelry, her handmade ceramics, sun catchers and even disco balls and crystal balls. It also sells flashy apparel for events, like shiny platform shoes, outlandishly colorful coats, and sequined hats and tiaras.

The goal is making customers happy, she said.

“I tell people that I sell serotonin and dopamine,” she said, jokingly referring to the “happy hormones,” as they’re sometimes called.

“I want to encourage people to have fun,” she said. “Life’s too short to be worried about what other people think.”

On Thursday, a customer walking out the door said she’d she’d bought a citrine crystal for financial success, and other crystals that she said provide positive energy for healing or good vibes.

The mainstay business at Raw Crystal are the glitter applications that people get for special events like concerts, Moore said.

She mostly offers the service at festival booths, but also by appointment at the store. She said one of her biggest venues is the Girdwood Forest Fair. She employs several glitter artists there, where long lines form, she said.

She’ll be adorning faces with the “artistry glitter” at the Barbie Rave at Williwaw Social in downtown Anchorage on Friday night. She’ll also occasionally host markets in her new shop with multiple food and art vendors. The first one is scheduled for March 3.

Raw Crystal Collective is open Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Moore hopes to open additional days as the business grows, she said.

Dripping Zebra: The couple that launched Palmeira Tropical Fusion restaurant in downtown Anchorage opened this coffee shop and roasting business on Government Hill earlier this month.

Dripping Zebra serves mochas, lattes and drip coffees, plus croissants and cookies. It’s located at 859 E. Loop Road north of downtown.

Diego Romo and Andrea Cuevas bought the coffee shop and roasting equipment from A-Town Coffee, a local roaster. They plan to replace the A-Town sign over the business with their own.

They want to make more of the traditional olla Mexican coffee that’s the most popular item at Palmeira, Romo said.

The coffee is made with cinnamon sticks, cloves and toasted cane sugar. “People liked it so much they started asking for the recipe,” he said.

The restaurant makes olla coffee using a handmade syrup. But with the roasting equipment, the couple plans to infuse the flavor into coffee beans and coffee pods that they’ll sell at the shop and stores. They’ll also make their own baked goods and serve Palmeira items, such as parfaits.

Romo said he and Andrea grew up near each other around Guadalajara in Mexico. They didn’t meet until about five years ago, after they’d separately moved to Alaska. They were both working in the restaurant industry when they met. Their common cultural traditions make them great friends and business partners, he said.

Ship Creek Brewing: JC Snead and his family opened the Tent City Taphouse restaurant in downtown Anchorage during the pandemic’s early days. It features 24 Alaska-made beers on tap, plus historical photos of the city.

Last month, the Sneads opened their latest venture, a brewery near Midtown. Like Tent City, the name is rooted in Anchorage’s origins.

Ship Creek Brewing serves eight beers on tap. It’s located in the business center at Arctic and 58th Avenue, at 5801 Arctic Blvd.

The beers include the Blueberry/Lemon-Pawprint, the citrusy Ship’SMaSHed, and the Chasing Sunsets trippel.

Lead brewer Nic Carrillo worked at Cooper Landing Brewing and Magnetic North Brewing, Snead said. He’s brewing a classic spread of beers for now, such as a pilsner, a porter, an amber and a spruce-tip blonde, Snead said. He’s now working on the house IPA, which will be called Without a Paddle.

The freshly renovated shop serves pretzels with beer cheese. A brick oven from Italy is on the way, and Neapolitan-style pizzas will be available starting in March, Snead said. They plan to sell beer in cans and growlers, working with restaurants around Alaska to carry their brews.

Inside the brewery, a stylized painting of Ship Creek adorns the wall. The north Anchorage creek hosted the city’s original settlement known as “tent city” more than a century ago.

Snead’s father, John Snead, is a retired Anchorage teacher and “history nut,” thus the businesses’ focus on history. John is part-owner in the businesses along with JC’s sister, Alfreda Snead.

Ship Creek Brewing opens at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends. They close at 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.

Circle K: Several Holiday Stationstores in Alaska are being converted to the Circle K brand. The changes at the convenience stores come because Alimentation Couche-Tard, based in Canada and owner of Circle K, bought Holiday several years ago.

“We acquired Holiday in 2017 and since 2022 have been working to convert stores in certain markets to our global Circle K brand. Those efforts are beginning in Alaska, where we have 25 locations, and we expect to complete that process in the coming months (weather of course being a factor),” said Chris Barnes, head of global communications for Circle K and Couche-Tard, in an email.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or