With the start of summer and the tourist season, several new businesses have opened in town to serve seasonal tourism or offer year-round services.
The wide variety of food options has expanded with either brand new operations or new incarnations in old locations. Other businesses that have had temporary homes out of trailers or Homer Farmers Market booths now have an actual storefront presence.
The Tickled Pear
Coal Point Seafoods (food trailer), Homer Spit
Ashley Steiner, owner
Born in Homer, Ashley Steiner grew up in Nebraska, but returned to Homer at 17 to graduate from high school. Steiner, 28, received an associate of arts from the Metropolitan Community College, Omaha, Culinary Institute. For the past seven years she worked at Wasabi’s, but this summer has started her own business, The Tickled Pear, a food trailer parked in front of Coal Point Seafoods.
A self-confessed travel fan, she lives a lifestyle common to many Homer millennials: Work hard in the summer and travel in the winter. Steiner has used her travels to Mexico and Europe to good use, learning about local culture and exploring new cuisine — “embrace the local people and get to know them better,” she said. The Tickled Pear features Homer variations on Mexican food such as ceviche, carnitas, poblano (chile) tortillas, but also showcases some Greek dishes such as The Spartan, marinaded chicken skewers wrapped in pita bread.
“I love everything about Mexican food — the simplicity of it, the depth of flavors,” she said on a break from cooking last Friday at her shiny food trailer. “It’s a magical elixir.”
Like many other Homer restaurants, Steiner seeks out locally grown produce and fresh seafood.
“Everything is made from scratch. I try to use as much locally as possible,” she said. “You can’t be from Homer and not try the fish. … I want to get it as fresh as possible.”
Since The Tickled Pear doesn’t have a deep-fat fryer, Steiner doesn’t serve the classic seaside food of fish and camps. That’s fine with her, she said.
“I wanted to definitely include what Homer has to offer, but in a different way,” Steiner said.
Her Homer Hot Pot includes octopus and local fish in broth with udon noodles and vegetables. The ceviche also uses local fish.
Steiner has visited Europe three times, including Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Greece. On her bucket list is to visit Croatia and eat wild truffles.
“My goal for this is to be open for the summer, go traveling, get new ideas and bring it back, sharing it with the people of Homer,” she said.
Water taxi and wildlife tours
Central Charters Boardwalk, Homer Spit
Lisa Conley, owner
Water taxi and wildlife tour company Coldwater AK has operated out of a trailer for the past three summer seasons, but this year has a storefront in the former Alpaca Connection building in the Central Charters Boardwalk next to Carmen’s Gelato. With a Bayweld boat so new it doesn’t have a name and the 32-foot Bayweld landing craft Granite Cape, Coldwater AK has two six-passenger boats that provide an option of services. On Friday, June 1, owner Lisa Conley and assistant Soniyae Reid hung art on fresh painted walls. The building has new paint inside and out and has updated the old building.
“It’s pretty transformed,” Conley said.
Wildlife tours can be customized to meet passengers’ needs, Conley said. Coldwater AK can offer whale watching tours once the whales start coming in as well as traditional Kachemak Bay tours such as Gull Island. They also do photo tours.
Captain’s Toy Chest
345 West Sterling Highway
Ken Goldman and Lisa Natanson, co-owners
Many Homerites will remember a time when parents could walk their kids into Timeless Toys to pick out a present or a special treat. Since it closed shop in 2016, a void has been left in the community, some say.
Two people who agreed there was a niche to be filled are Ken Goldman and Lisa Natanson, who recently opened the new Captain’s Toy Chest. Located on the Sterling Highway in the same lot as Pho and Thai Restaurant, the toy shop is both a major career change for the longtime friends and a way to give back to the Homer community.
Goldman and Natanson are career fisheries biologists who met through their work. Goldman recently retired from Alaska Fish and Game, and Natanson is in the process of moving up to Homer from the Lower 48 to run the toy store with him.
The pair said they want the business to be more than a store — they want it to be a staple in the community. They talked about renting the space out for birthday parties and other youth events, and even for adult game or paint nights in the future. It all depends on what the community wants, Goldman said.
Natanson said that, as longtime members of the science realm, both she and Goldman have a commitment to stocking the store with not only fun toys, but educational ones. An entire section of one of the shop’s walls is dedicated to games promoting scientific discovery.
Goldman said he did a lot of consulting with Becky Pfeil, owner of the former Timeless Toys, before jumping into the new venture.
Blue Sunshine Bakery and Cafe
361 Sterling Highway
Genarita Grobarek and Adrienne Leffler, co-owners
If people shopping at Captain’s Toy Chest get hungry after all that searching for the perfect toys, they can hop over to the very next lot for a treat.
Business partners Adrienne Leffler and Genarita Grobarek are no strangers to the world of baked goods. Grobarek has been selling donuts at the Homer Farmers Market for years, and Leffler said she’s rather well known for her sugar cookies. But this is the first time they’ve teamed up for something so permanent. The two friends co-own Blue Sunshine Bakery and Cafe, a new establishment that opened its doors for the first time last Friday.
“We had joked a couple times about starting a bakery,” Leffler said. “Because (Grobarek) makes breads, and I do sweets. She does sweets, too, but you know, we kind of have our niches.”
Located on the Sterling Highway next to Pho and Thai Restaurant, the building still has some finishing touches yet to be completed, but the food is rolling out of the ovens.
“This place has been sitting empty for so long,” she said. “I just went down to the landlords that live down here and I was like, ‘What are you doing with it?’”
The landlords said they had no plan for the building, and liked the idea of a bakery, Leffler said. She and Grobarek currently rent the space.
“People are really excited, especially for Gena’s donuts, because they were used to getting them once a week in the summer,” Leffler said of the public reaction to the business so far.
They serve a whole range of sweet treats, from donuts to cookies to brownies to muffins, as well as heartier sandwich options. There’s also a breakfast burrito available if patrons stop by for a morning coffee. Leffler said she and Grobarek made a conscious decision to offer more options than just sweet treats.
“We decided to add that because not everybody wants a cookie …,” Leffler said. “I feel like even in this town, you’ve got to be versatile, because there’s only 5,000 people in the area, and you’ve got to have — I love donuts, but I don’t want to eat them just for breakfast.”
Blue Sunshine Bakery and Cafe us open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. six days a week and is closed on Sundays.