Open & Shut is an ongoing series that examines the happenings and goings in Southcentral Alaska’s businesses. Send an email to Alex DeMarban, reporter at [email protected] if you have information about a business that is opening or closing in the region. “Open & Shut”Please include the subject line.
Preference: Dan Brown was fired from his job as a chef at Sunrise Grill in Palmer because of the slowdown in sales during the early days COVID-19.
He was able to get a great deal for a used food truck and quickly opened his shop on a corner of South Anchorage, just off the Old Seward Highway. He began to offer vegan versions of American cuisine.
“I have two kids and I was just trying to make it through the early stages of the pandemic,”Brown, 28,
Preference, vegan foodHe said that the truck was almost sold out every day.
Double-decker burgers with sauce, made from plant based patties, were devoured by customers. His deep-fried, breaded strips made from vital wheat gluten, vegan chicken, was a hit with customers. They could top it with coconut milk ice-cream shakes.
Preference was opened in Anchorage’s northeast Anchorage storefront at 360 Boniface Parkway. Suite B11. He’s no longer running the food truck, which was a pain in winter because food needed hauling out every night so it wouldn’t freeze.
Brown said that Preference is a vegan-friendly restaurant.
He said that word of mouth and social media have been key to driving sales. It’s key that his meals are based on traditional American cuisine, like vegan chicken strips on waffles for breakfast.
“It’s food that people don’t expect to be vegan,”He said.
Unleashed Alaska – Chelsea Coartney had a moment to reckon with six years ago. She was a mother to three children at the time and was living paycheck-to-paycheck. Federal aid was needed to purchase baby formula. She collapsed that day.
She refused to give in, she said. She set a goal to make $1 million in five years. She claims she made it through investing in stocks, startup businesses, managing properties, and running a dog breeding business.
Now, she’s pouring her earnings into a new effort: an indoor dog park that Coartney says is the only one in Alaska.
Unleashed Alaska is located south of Midtown at 166 E. Potter Drive. It’s part doggie day care, part boarding facility. Located in a revamped warehouse, it’s a clean place for pets and their people.
The dogs love the synthetic turf that is dog-friendly. The owners have the option to stay and enjoy a cup of coffee, or they can go.
Coartney, a Utqiagvik native, stated that Unleashed Alaska offers dog owners an alternative to Alaska’s harsh weather.
She stated that about 200 clients have already signed up for the members-only company. She estimated that there are about twice as many who have signed up online to join the members-only business. The dog park requires that all dogs undergo temperament tests.
Five dogs and a couple of pet attendants played on a field Thursday with five other dogs. They’re called “rufferees,”Coartney stated.
Doggie diapers were used as needed by the dogs. They use the outside area fenced off from the building for their regular bathroom breaks.
An employee claimed that Garbanzo, a goldendoodle who had been boarded at the facility for several days, was there while his owners got married in Hawaii.
Flat screen TVs were used in the play area to show movies such as “101 Dalmatians.”Coartney stated that grooming services are on the horizon. Coartney’s daughter, who is 10, helps wash dogs at a washing station named for her: Aaliyah’s Wiggly Wash.
“This is a whole new concept,”Coartney stated. “People aren’t able to wrap their heads around why we would want to spend this much money on dogs. But I’ve had this dream for a long time, and I’m willing to dump all my money into it.”
Pel’meni: Mark Moore got his start making Russian dumplings at Pel’meni restaurant in Juneau 15 years ago, eventually becoming manager.
Two years ago, in a licensing partnership with the owner, he opened up a Pel’meni in Sitka.
Now, he’s “slinging dumplings” in Anchorage after opening a Pel’meni downtown, across from the Hotel Captain Cook, at 434 K St. He said he’s always wanted to bring the concept to Anchorage, so he moved his young family here this summer.
Moore had planned to open the doors this weekend. But word spread on social media as he held soft openings — practice runs for friends and family.
People he didn’t know began showing up, and lots of them. The restaurant was packed around lunchtime on Thursday.
“I guess we’re open now,”He laughed.
Moore makes two types, beef and potato dumplings. Moore adds sriracha sauce and curry to traditional flavors, as well as sour cream and cilantro to his dumplings.
He explained that dumplings were traditionally used to feed long hunts in Siberia.
Customer Tasha Boyer, who used to live in Sitka, loved getting dumplings at the Pel’mini there, she said. She now lives in Anchorage and had to visit this store.
“My family is obsessed with them,”She said.
Pure and Pressed Juice: Stephanie Agni and Collin Agni opened the first juice and smoothie bar in late 2019 in the Huffman Business park in South Anchorage, just before the pandemic.
It was difficult to start, but Pure and Pressed Juice benefited because people took a greater interest in their health, Stephanie said.
“A lot of people were coming in because they wanted healthier options to provide more nutrients to their body to keep their immune system strong,” Stephanie said.
This helped to boost sales at the juice bar and enabled the Agnis to open a Midtown section location in September.
She said that the new storefront at Dover Center, located at 236 W. 34th Ave. Suite 224, was opened in response to customer demands for a central location.
She explained that clients are increasingly ordering bulk orders of bottled water online to be picked up at the stores.
“We are pressing hundreds of pounds of produce per day, and for all the compost we have, we’ve partnered with farms in the Valley to give to their pigs,”She said.
She said that cold-press juice extraction is more efficient than traditional juicing and retains more vitamins and minerals. The store doesn’t add sugar, syrups, additives or concentrates.
“We use raw and real produce for everything we make,”She said.
The Green Daily Detox juice is popular. It contains two pounds of greens, plus cucumbers and lemons. It’s essentially salad in a bottle, without the dressing, Stephanie said.
Stephanie mentioned that other favorites include the fruit-based Immune Kicker with red apple, ginger and lemon, as well as the Anti-Inflammatory made mostly of carrots with ginger and apple.
Tudor Market: The COVID-19 pandemic was causing economic chaos. Thelma and Johnnette Obillo started a business to provide financial support for their day jobs in real estate and telecommunications.
Tudor Market opened in late-August in a strip center at 2476 E. Tudor Road.
The store carries hard-to-find frozen fish from the south Pacific Ocean, plus other food sought by Anchorage’s Asian and specifically Filipino communities, said Sipin, whose family is originally from the Philippines.
There’s birch flower, or alukon, a green vegetable from trees in the Philippines that’s often added to soups, she said. The banana blossom, which is a flower that is often used in fish-based soups, can be purchased at the store.
Sipin stated that the frozen lato is basically a seaweed that you can eat with fried fish in Alaska.
“A lot of people have been coming in for that,”She said.
Cowork by RSD: In a twist on traditional office space, a commercial property owner has transformed a four-story downtown Anchorage building into a sleek coworking facility where members rent desks and offices over periods that suit their needs, whether it’s a day or a year.
Robin Brena stated that Cowork, which began Monday, will be a community space that provides services for small start-ups in business development.
“We’ll actively sponsor events of interest to our members that can assist them,”Brena, majority owner at RSD commercial property company. “We’ll have bankers come in and talk financing. Lawyers will talk about contract and entity formation.”
The coworking offices at 911 W. Eighth Ave. have undergone a $3 million renovation. They offer ultra-fast internet, local beer, and an espresso bar made with Kaladi Brothers coffee beans. Sound booths are available for livestreaming, a mother’s room, smart TV screens, high-tech audio, and 360-degree cameras for Zoom meeting.
The centerpiece of the first floor is a circular fireplace made of glass. A large sofa is wrapped around it. Mail can be delivered directly to private boxes and parcel lockers are accessible with a smartphone app. There’s free parking on site, and clients with full-time memberships get round-the-clock access.
A high-end ultraviolet air filtration system is aimed at helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses, said Brena, an oil and gas attorney who led last year’s unsuccessful citizen initiative to overhaul production taxes.
“People tired of working from home who want a safe community can do that,”He said.
Cowork by RSD will host a happy hour for free on October 15, from 3-7 p.m.