Alaska Bagel Forced Out of Great Alaska Mall
An empty hole now sits in the middle of the Great Alaska Mall, where Alaska Bagel served coffee and brunch to Midtown Anchorage for more than twenty-five years. The shop served its last dine-in customer on October 21, three weeks after receiving notice from the landlord to move out.
“End of an era” is how Alaska Bagel manager Karter Chaeum describes the sudden closing. His sister, Sandy Xayavongsy, has owned the place for the last thirteen years, more than half of its existence.
The 7,000-square-foot storefront won’t be vacant for long. Neighboring B&J’s Sporting Goods plans to enlarge its footprint. “We’re going to move all of our apparel and boots into that space,” says Troy Arnold, who bought the longtime outdoor equipment outlet nearly two years ago. “We’re going to expand our fishing and marine section more into this space.”
The changes at Great Alaska Mall follow new ownership. The building had been owned by the Cal Worthington Trust, on land leased from Calais Company. As the Cal Worthington Trust liquidates its assets, Calais took full ownership, adding to the four other retail malls and an office building the company owns in Midtown.
The Great Alaska Mall, at Northern Lights Boulevard and C Street, is one corner of a patch of Midtown land that Calais Company owns most of, the legacy of strategic homesteading in 1959. From Northern Lights south to 36th Avenue, and from C Street east to Denali Street (including both sides of those streets), it’s easier to point out land Calais doesn’t own, such as the Key Bank building across from Great Alaska Mall.
The handover was finalized in late September. As Chaeum recalls, on September 29 a representative from Calais’ property manager showed up in the morning and told him Alaska Bagel must vacate the mall by the end of October. The shop’s lease has been month to month since last year; uncertainty due to COVID-19 made a three- or five-year renewal too risky, he says.
Xayavongsy adds that the previous landlord gave the restaurant a rent deduction, in light of COVID, but the new landlord apparently wanted a tenant who would pay the full rate.
Alaska Bagel has been located at Northern Lights Blvd. & C Street for the last twenty-five years.
More warning would’ve been “nicer,” Chaeum says, giving Alaska Bagel more time to liquidate inventory and wrap up business affairs. A post on Alaska Bagel’s Facebook page says, “Unfortunately, we were not given a reasonable amount of time for this transition to avoid interruption in our services.”
Chaeum points the finger next door, at B&J’s. “They didn’t even give us a heads up,” he says, “which would’ve been nice as neighbors. But they just kind of played it off.”
For his part, Arnold says B&J’s relationship with Alaska Bagel has been “cordial” and that he’s not responsible for the short notice. “That had nothing to do with me,” he says. “That was the property management company; that was their deal.”
Property management firm Frampton & Opinsky relayed all questions to the landlord. Greg McDonald at Calais Company also declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the tenants.
Arnold adds that the idea of expanding B&J’s didn’t come from him. Rather, he says the landlord presented the option during lease renewals.
Reels for sale at B&J’s Sporting Goods.
The neighbors agree about one thing, though: the Great Alaska Mall is not as great as it used to be, in terms of its physical condition. “The building is out of shape,” says Chaeum. “It’s very old… Some of the flooring is damaged, a lot of things don’t work the way they should.”
Arnold sees the same problems. “It has been showing its age. There’s multiple plumbing leaks, that type of thing.”
Partly for that reason, Chaeum sees the forced removal as a “blessing in disguise” because the location was not ideal. “The size is not efficient to what we want,” he says, “and there’s a lot of long hallways for no reason.”
Chaeum is looking forward to Alaska Bagel reopening in a new location, but at this point he cannot say where or how soon.
Alaska Bagel and B&J’s Sporting Goods have been neighbors at the Great Alaska Mall for nearly thirty years.
Although other bakeries, cafés, and restaurants in Anchorage make and serve bagels, Alaska Bagel was the only shop in town that specialized in the ring-shaped treats. “I’ve had some New Yorkers come in here and say that they enjoyed the bagels,” Chaeum says. “We proof our bagels and bake them; we don’t boil our bagels, which is the difference.”
The shop’s best offering, he suggests, was classic cream cheese and lox. “I had one this morning,” Chaeum says. “Cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, onions, tomatoes.”
Alaska Bagel didn’t only serve dine-in and take-out customers, as Chaeum explains: “We wholesale to about thirty locations locally, and then we deliver to Valdez, Kodiak, Dillingham, and all that stuff.”
Those customers will have to wait for the next fresh batch while Alaska Bagel’s kitchen equipment is in storage. The Facebook page promises Alaska Bagel “will be Alaska stronger than ever when we come back to serve you!”
Through this wall, B&J’s Sporting Goods plans to expand into space occupied for the last twenty-five years by Alaska Bagel.
Next time the space opens, it’ll be full of B&J’s sporting goods. “We’re broadening our services every year,” says Arnold. “We’re going to do a reel repair service, have a full service department. That’s coming up here, hopefully very soon.”
Arnold figures the extra space for fishing gear within the current 9,500-square-foot store will help differentiate B&J’s from national chains. “We cater to more Alaskan fishing,” he says, “where some of the bigger box stores are kind of cookie cut-outs of what they carry down in the States.”
It’s a plan he’s had since taking over B&J’s in early 2019. “The old owner wasn’t from Alaska,” he says, “and we wanted to bring B&J’s back to Alaskan owned.”
Arnold expects to have the expansion into the adjacent space ready for business by April 2022.