Downtown dining gets some new flavors

By October 6, 2013Business, Community, Economy

Juneau’s downtown dining scene has some new additions while a couple established eateries are making changes.

Coppa is the Italian word for cup, when referring to a cup of ice cream, which was Marc Wheeler’s main inspiration. Wheeler’s decision to open the shop with his wife Jessica Paris is partly based on the success he had selling homemade rhubarb sherbet during this summer’s Food Truck Fridays.

“It was so rewarding to make something with your hands, make people happy, and make money at the same time,” Wheeler says.

Coppa specializes in homemade ice cream and sherbets, baked goods, and espresso drinks, which requires the work of two baristas and a baker. It opened at the end of September.

“I knew it would be some work to build this place, but I didn’t know how much work. I had no idea of how much work and all the decisions you have to make to basically build a place from nothing,” he says.

Wheeler says he’s invested about $75,000 into renovating the space and buying kitchen appliances, including a brand new $10,000 batch freezer that makes six quarts of ice cream in eight minutes.

Coppa is located on Glacier Avenue in the same building as Seong’s Sushi Bar near the Federal Building. It opened a week before the government shutdown which Wheeler says has caused business to decrease by 20 percent. He says that wasn’t part of his business plan.

Wheeler is a semi-finalist in the Path to Prosperity business competition. If he’s selected, he’ll have access to a consultant to develop a business plan. He hopes to get into the wholesale ice cream business.

In the heart of downtown on Seward Street, Venietia Santana has been serving Mexican fusion at V’s Cellar Door since the end of August.

Santana took over the space that formerly housed Olivia’s de Mexico. She pulled the carpet out, bought new furniture, added lighting, and changed the color scheme.

So far, she says, business is better than expected.

“Apparently people like it and keep coming back. It’s not just my friends feeling bad for me,” Santana says laughing. “It’s actually people who enjoy the food and keep coming back, so it’s been really, really busy. We’ve been meeting or exceeding our goal every day.”

Santana employs seven people including two cooks and three wait staff. Aside from trying to keep prices down – dinners are around thirteen dollars – Santana says her main priority is customer service, “I want people to come in here and feel comfortable. I want them to know that they’re going to be able to get what they want and the way they ordered it and everything is top notch.”

The biggest challenge for Santana is getting ingredients. She says her menu includes Mexican dishes infused with other cuisines, like Korean and Italian. Most of the supplies she can’t find locally are mailed by friends and family in the lower-48.

“Some has come from Korea that we’ve had to wait weeks for,” Santana says.

Santana says the Small Business Administration (SBA) helped her a lot, “The SBA really does the paperwork with you and that foundation, that groundwork that makes you okay with and plan for how do you get your doors open. They’re a free service for business. Without them I wouldn’t be open.”

B’s Bakery and Bistro on 2nd Street was closed last week for touch up work on the kitchen.

Owner Rebecca Gaguine says when customers return this week, they won’t notice any changes since most of the work was done in the back. B’s currently has 9 part-time employees.

The eatery most known for its cupcakes also serves breakfast and lunch.

“During the summer, we had a really good breakfast crowd, so I’m excited to see what it’s like during the legislature,” Gaguine says.

Around the corner and down the street, Rockwell is currently undergoing a major renovation.

Co-owner Deb Barry says Northwind Architects came up with a design that involves new walls, a new bar, a stone fireplace, and a tin ceiling. She says everything will be different, including the menu.

“We’ll be adding to the menu. We’ll have a lot more ability to do steaks and seafood and things like that,” Barry says.

The renovation will increase dining room seating capacity to about 80. Rockwell’s 20 employees include six cooks. Rockwell, which has been open for about a year, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Barry says she hopes to reopen Rockwell in early November.


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