Art and artisanal cheese are converging in Midtown Anchorage.
At the end of December, Fromagio's Artisan Cheese closed the doors at its O'Malley Road location after five years. Now, it's moved to Midtown and into an unlikely venue -- the blue.hollomon art gallery.
The specialty shop, which serves small-batch cheeses from around the world, hopes the new space will mean more opportunities. Fromagio's owner Helen Howarth said she's in the early stages of getting a beer and wine license that would allow the shop to operate a "cheese bar" that includes drink pairings. She's also planning a "culture club" in collaboration with the gallery that would include discussions that demystify topics related to food and art.
"Personally, I think there's tremendous overlap," Howarth said. "And both (businesses) want people to think about art in a different way, in terms of how we live our lives and how we consume foods and how we appreciate visual stimulus."
Blue.hollomon co-owner Georgia Blue said in an interview Tuesday the situation is unconventional, but not groundbreaking. She said in other places like Portland or Seattle it's not uncommon to see a variety of retailers sharing spaces.
Blue also said having the cheese shop will make some of the gallery's modern art more accessible to people.
"It introduces a comfort level for people to enjoy the arts," she said.
Howarth said the new location suits her in many ways. A classically trained cellist, Howarth formerly worked at a number of Alaska art organizations, including the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra. Howarth said opening the cheese shop was a departure from her past, while the new location marks a return.
It also marks a year of runarounds for Fromagio's. Howarth closed Fromagio's Spenard Road location in January 2015 after the building was sold and new owners took the space back. She said their lease at the O'Malley location was not renewed after December because a neighboring tenant requested more space.
So she moved into the new space at Arctic Boulevard and 36th Avenue. The new location has seen a lot of businesses come through, she said, including a tanning salon. But the space has some surprises, including a larger kitchen that allows more space for catering and a return of the popular mac and cheese dish.
Fromagio's and blue.hollomon will be open at the same times, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and closed on Monday. Howarth said there are some small kitchen renovations still in progress impacting the menu. Cold lunches are being served, and hot menu items will be available in the next three weeks.