John Fox is a plumber by day and a cookie baker by night.
While it might sound like an odd U-turn for the longtime Anchorage resident, Fox, who held a soft opening for the first Nestle Toll House Café on Tuesday, said the two aren't totally independent.
"I'm a people person," he said in his cafe Tuesday.
The cafe is the first of its kind in Alaska and the latest chain restaurant to hit the state.
Fox said the cafe focuses on cookies, noting that's what the Toll House brand is known for. If you forget, just walk inside. With bright golden yellow and brown walls, entering the cafe is a bit like walking inside a bag of chocolate chips.
There are plenty of cookies -- from classic chocolate chip to white chocolate macadamia nut and beyond -- plus an array of other desserts, including ice cream, frozen yogurt, brownies and cupcakes. Any cookie can be paired with ice cream for an ice cream sandwich. Giant cookie cakes -- large enough to serve up to 40 people -- are available with optional thick frosting lettering. The cafe also has a savory menu that includes paninis, crepes, quesadillas and flatbreads.
"It has everything," Fox said. "It's like a coffee shop on steroids."
Fox has always had an interest in franchises and at one point was involved in Dairy Queen franchising. After getting out of those 10 years ago, he wondered what other franchise opportunities there were. He eventually landed on Toll House, hoping to capitalize on Alaska's interest in coffee while still keeping the food options broad.
Fox said it was a two-year process to bring the restaurant to Alaska. When he first contacted Nestle Toll House, he was told they weren't even sure they could come to Alaska due to distribution challenges. According to Nestle, there are about 150 cafes across the U.S., Canada and the Middle East.
But none in Alaska, until now. Fox said he'd like to open to other Toll House cafes depending on the success of the South Anchorage location.
Nestle Toll House Café of Anchorage
Where: 901 E. Dimond Blvd.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., 7 days a week
Contact: 349-0015, nestlecafe.com