Anchorage gets a barefoot massage studio, a doggy bistro and Alaska’s first Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop


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Drool Central, open and shut

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 [email protected] with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.

Open

Drool Central: A Mum & Pup Barkery: Daisy Nicolas decided to change her career a decade ago, from cooking at Alaska lodges to cooking for pets.

She started by selling her homemade treats at farmers markets in summer. They’re made with locally grown organic ingredients, like dog cookies using Alaska salmon. There are no sugar, salt or artificial additives.

Last month, she accomplished a long-sought dream. She opened a doggy bistro where dogs with good dispositions, and on short leashes, are encouraged to sit at tables and await their dish.

The food goes fast.

“Before I set down all the trays, all the food is gone, so you turn tables so quickly,” she said.

Drool Central, open and shut

The menu includes pet fare like pizza by the slice, including the most popular beef-topped option, as well as beef burgers, chicken carrot soup and other meals.

The store also sells packaged items, such as frozen dog meals and cat treats.

Nicolas takes lots of orders online, and clients often come into the cafe to pick up their items. The “barkery” is located in Spenard at 3739 McCain Loop, near the intersection of Minnesota Drive and Spenard Road.

It’s open only on Saturdays so far, from noon to 4 p.m. She’ll add more days after the kitchen is completed — finding contractors has been difficult, she said.

Every pet leaves happy, she said.

“The dogs are thrilled to come. They get samples no matter what,” she said.

Häagen-Dazs: An Alaskan couple opened the state’s first Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop in December in South Anchorage.

Christina Bean said she and her husband, Chris, wanted to bring the franchise to Alaska in part because he is a faithful Häagen-Dazs fan. As for Christina, she grew up taking memorable family drives on Friday nights to get ice cream in Eagle River.

[Alaska USA will change its name to Global Credit Union this spring]

“It’s more than a treat,” she said. “It’s family time. It’s happiness.”

Alaskans tend to welcome national chains. Christina Bean said sales at the shop have been among the best for Häagen-Dazs’ many street-based locations across the U.S., a category that doesn’t include Häagen-Dazs shops in malls.

Bean graduated with a degree in business management from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2009. Chris, now the store manager, previously worked in construction in Alaska’s oil and gas fields.

A couple of years ago, the couple started making their pitch to Häagen-Dazs for a shop in Alaska. Company executives flew to the state last winter to study its ice cream shops, she said. They were surprised at how well the shops did and supported the Beans’ concept, she said.

Adam Hanson, Häagen-Dazs president, said the Beans played the lead role in bringing the franchise to the state, according to a statement about the opening.

“We’re so excited to finally land in Alaska,” Hanson said. “Each shop is owned by local franchisees, and the Anchorage franchisees were the energetic, driving factor that helped Häagen-Dazs open their first location in the state.”

In addition to ice cream scoops, the shop sells ice cream cakes, sundaes, shakes, smoothies and ice cream by the pint.

It’s located in the Anchorage Village next to Firehouse Subs, at 345 W. 104th Ave., Suite 200A.

The chain, which originated in New York in 1960, has more than 200 shops nationally.

Solstice Bodywork By Tri Barefoot Massage: After graduating from massage school, Kristin Tri realized she couldn’t use her hands for her career. A condition known as joint hypermobility caused pain in her wrists and arms during massages.

But she learned about an alternative approach on Instagram: massages using her feet.

Kristin Tri, Barefoot Massage, Solstice Body

A few years later, she opened her first barefoot massage studio in Eagle River. This past week, she added a second location, Solstice Bodywork By Tri Barefoot Massage, in Midtown Anchorage.

She and other massage therapists don’t quite walk on their clients, she said. Instead, they “glide” upon them with their feet, holding overhead bars for control and balance.

“I went to training, and I fell in love with barefoot massage,” she said. “I didn’t have to work very hard. Gravity does all the work.”

She “retired” her hands in 2019, she said. A barefoot massage gives a unique deep tissue massage that provides a greater level of consistent pressure than the hands, she said.

“The foot has as many nerve endings as hands do, but it’s a softer tool than a hand or elbow,” she said.

The clinic also offers Thai massages, with therapists moving the client’s body into yoga-like stretches, and manual lymphatic drainage, which can help drive out excess fluid or swelling in the body.

The shop is located across from REI, at 401 E. Northern Lights Blvd.

open and shut, Hmoob Cultural Center of Alaska, child care center, midtown

Hmoob Cultural Center of Alaska: This child care center in Midtown Anchorage opened in November and offers bilingual instruction in English and Hmong.

Hmoob is the proper, traditional way to spell Hmong, thus the center’s name, said co-owner Suzy Yang. It’s the first child care facility of its kind in Alaska, she said.

Yang said the center grew out of a dream that she and a fellow Hmong friend had while in college a few years ago studying child care development. They wanted to improve services for Hmong people in Alaska.

“We like to support our community by giving back and introducing the Hmong language and culture,” Yang said.

Anchorage is home to thousands of Hmong residents. During the Vietnam war, Hmong villagers from Southeast Asia sided with the United States. Many became refugees after the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam.

Yang said she was a refugee who came with her parents to the U.S. when she was a young girl. She moved to Alaska more than a decade ago.

The center is open to all kids, not just Hmong, from 1 to 12 years old. The center offers before- and after-school care.

About 30 children are already enrolled, but there’s room for more, she said.

“It’s diverse in our center,” she said. “We welcome anyone.”

[Caught in the middle: Alaska needs more child care to aid economic recovery, but facilities are pinched]

Yang said the children at the center get a head start in language development. Staff at the center instruct children bilingually with tools like flashcards. The center also has monthly cultural themes that focus on subjects like story cloth, with pictures sewn into fabric telling a story in the Hmong culture.

open and shut, Hmoob Cultural Center of Alaska, child care center, midtown

There’s high demand for child care services. The pandemic led to closures of centers as enrollment dropped and the labor shortage reduced staff.

The center is located near the Moose’s Tooth restaurant at 3327 Fairbanks St.

Fireweed Veterinary Services: After getting her doctorate in veterinary medicine and working at a clinic in Anchorage for a couple of years, Eagle River veterinarian Amanda Grimes realized there was a demand for a practice specializing in euthanasia for pets in homes.

So she opened Fireweed Veterinary Services this month, providing mobile end-of-life care for cats, dogs and other pets in the Anchorage and Wasilla areas.

“We see it as a gift we can provide for the pets,” she said. “We help relieve their suffering and help families feel validated.”

A home setting lets families say goodbye to their animals in a familiar place, often with friends and relatives around for support.

Grimes helps with pre-planning beforehand. She’ll suggest that owners have a special spot prepared for their pet’s final moments, like a bed, or have favorite treats ready, like the pair of Big Macs one family gave their ailing dog.

She provides a list of online support services and brings books to help children understand the experience.

“Families can be close together in their homes, and you can imagine it goes so much smoother when they’re in their comfortable place rather than a clinic where they’ve never been before,” Grimes said. “It relieves a lot of stress, you can take your time and have it be a peaceful experience.”

Maurices: This women’s fashion chain opened its first store in Alaska in November. It’s on the first floor of the Dimond Mall in South Anchorage, across from Oil & Vinegar, in Suite 189.

Maurices women's clothing retail chain

Maurices sells a variety of sizes for different ages and body types, said Whitney Turner, the store leader.

The chain is headquartered in Duluth, Minnesota, with more than 900 stores.

“We’re a very customer-focused shop,” Turner said.

Shut

Tikahtnu Stadium 16 & IMAX theater: The Regal Cinemas movie theater in the Tikahtnu Commons mall in Northeast Anchorage, with 16 screens including an IMAX screen, is listed for closure in a bankruptcy filing by the world’s second-largest cinema chain. It opened in 2010.

Regal Cinemas Tikahtnu

Regal parent company Cineworld Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection in September after the pandemic clobbered movie attendance, announced plans on Tuesday to “reject” existing leases associated with 39 theaters nationally on Feb. 15, including Tikahtnu Stadium.

[Company plans to close Regal Cinemas theater at Anchorage’s Tikahtnu Commons]

The mall is owned by Browman Development Co. and Alaska Native corporation Cook Inlet Region Inc.

CIRI declined to comment. Browman did not return a request for comment. Regal Cinemas, a division of Cineworld, didn’t respond to multiple messages seeking comment.

Daily News entertainment and sports editor Chris Bieri contributed.

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