Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Kaladi store on highway will cater to different crowd
By Jenny Neyman
Tucked away on a side street out of view from the Sterling Highway, the Kaladi Brothers Coffee store in Soldotna is more a hangout and fuel stop for locals than it is a spot for drivers to stop on their way through town.
And that’s fine. The store stays busy in the summer and busy enough in the winter without drawing much just-passing-through clientele.
Kaladi’s management realizes the benefits of leaving well enough alone, but also figures the “secret” of the coffee shop’s presence in Soldotna is too good to be kept.
So they’re opening a new store on the Sterling Highway later this week or early next week. And they’re keeping the old one on Kobuk Street.
Since May the company has been remodeling part of the space previously occupied by the Great Alaska Pizza Company across the parking lot from the Peninsula Center Mall along the Sterling Highway in Soldotna. What was once a large open space — home to Godfather’s Pizza before Great Alaska moved in — has been split in two. Subway occupies the other half, after moving out of the mall this spring.
Amy White, manager of Soldotna Kaladi Brothers, said Kaladi’s wasn’t necessarily looking to expand on the central Kenai Peninsula. The space was just too good to pass up.
“They just had a vacancy in the building. I think that they talked to Subway about possibly making this into two spaces and it just worked out because we don’t need all that space,” White said. “We didn’t start out looking to open a new store. A place became available that seemed like a good fit.”
White said she thinks the area can support two stores, even through they are mere blocks from each other.
“The other location is very local. It’s back off the road. If you don’t know where it is, you don’t know where it is,” she said. “They thought this would add a new element and bring in some new people.”
The new store’s main asset rumbles along outside the door.
“This is the main road. This is how you have to drive. So many people come down here from Anchorage or up from Homer or just driving to work that might not be aware of our other store,” White said.
The store has a little less space than the newly remodeled Kaladi’s on Kobuk, or about the same seating as the original store did before it was expanded, White said. It has an open-air, industrial feel above with a high, exposed ceiling, and banks of tall, triple-paned windows letting in light.
Art deco yellow-glass lights hang down and shine pools of color on the glossy finish of the sealed and polished cement floor. Most walls are cream colored and the furniture is minimalist modern black, with a pop of color coming from a red accent wall behind the wood-faced coffee bar opposite the windows.
“I think it’ll have a different feel to it. It’ll just be a cool other choice,” White said.
She said the store will display local art, just like the Kobuk store does. There are no plans for hosting live music, but that may change in the future.
The biggest difference in layout or style between the two stores is a community room inset near the bar that can be reserved for parties or meetings.
Other than that, the new store should feel familiar to patrons of the old, or any other, Kaladi’s location.
“It’s still Kaladi Brothers,” White said. “We still have the same drinks and standards and products.”
White expects business along the highway to mirror business in the neighborhood – busy in the summer and slower, but still adequate, in the winter.
“I think we’ll get some people over from the other store and we’ll definitely get some new people. It’s an interesting, fun, exciting thing for me. It’s not my risk, necessarily, but I want it to do as well as I think it can do,” she said.
Putting signs up on the building in the middle of last week has already drawn in potential customers.
“Especially since we put the signs up we’ve been getting quite a few,” White said. “There were two people from Anchorage who didn’t know we had a store here pop in.”
White plans to hold a dual opening for the new store and the remodeled original location on Kobuk in the near future.
Back on their turf, the regulars at the Kobuk store are curious to see how the new site turns out, but not so much so that they plan to relocate.
“I think it’s a good thing they expanded, but I’m still probably going to go to this one. It’s my favorite,” said Russ Bacon, of Kasilof.
“That one’s for the tourists, I hear,” said Joe Deveaux. “This one’s for us.”