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Alaskan business owners breathe new life into Spenard vacancies

Alaskan business owners breathe new life into Spenard vacancies

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Words by Mariah Dejesus-Remaklus. Photos by Young Kim.

There have been vacant buildings in the Spenard area for some time now, including the old buildings that once housed TapRoot and La Mex. But while Anchorage locals may have walked and driven by seemingly abandoned properties, they were actually passing by the resurrection of these “ghosts.” 

The former TapRoot building is now home to La Potato, a joint project of both style and name between beer, wine and spirits shop, La Bodega, and McCarthy-based restaurant, The Potato.

Pamela Hatzis, owner of La Bodega, said the shop had already been looking for a restaurant to continue their business and spent the summer considering the building at 3300 Spenard Road, which had been vacant since late last year.

“The writing’s been on the wall for a year. In order for us to really do what we already do, we need to just have our own restaurant,” Hatzis said. “We’d been looking for a year and a half, and then we found that building.”

La Potato is a pop-up restaurant; Hatzis describes it as “our venue, their menu.” The Potato runs the kitchen while La Bodega mans the bar and provides the spirits.

“We’re doing the front of the house,” Hatzis said. “The Potato is doing the back of the house, so we just combined it, La Potato.”

The building’s location in Spenard is one of many reasons Nikole Moore, La Bodega’s general manager, is excited about the project.

“That area of Anchorage — it’s my favorite. It’s very diverse,” Moore said. “I think cultivating that and creating a space where everyone feels comfortable and bring life back into that building — I feel stoked.”

Not far from La Potato is the former La Mex building, now owned by Matt Jones and Rod Hancock, who also own Moose’s Tooth. Unlike La Potato, space is being prepped for a food hall, where several local vendors — think food trucks and the like — will get to set up.

In a story written by the Anchorage Daily News in September, Hancock said he’s hoping for a community feel at the food hall that essentially has Moose’s Tooth’s name on it.

“It’s an extension of the food truck concept, which is a variety of food under one roof,” he said.

The building still has a lot of work to be done and is in the early stages of the food hall concept. Jones noted that has to be brought up to code and made accessible.

And then there’s the old La Mex cactus sign.As of September, there wasn’t quite a plan for it, according to Jones. Hopefully, it shares the same positive, albeit eventful, fate as the iconic 1960s neon palm tree that almost left Spenard for good but was successfully purchased by faithful Spenardians.

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