Story last updated at 12:00 p.m. Thursday, May 2, 2002

Brad and Barb Gamble recently moved back to Homer to run the Duncan House restaurant.
by R.J. Kelly
Managing Editor

photo: business
  Photo by R. J. Kelly, Homer News
New Duncan House owners bring experience to job  
Duncan House, a gathering spot and downhome diner for locals and visitors for 14 years, may have new hands at the helm, but Brad and Barb Gamble are old hands in the restaurant business.

The Gambles took over the restaurant on central Pioneer Avenue on April 17, the day after the sale closed, Brad said. After about four years in Arizona, he said it's good to be back home in Homer, where the couple spent most of their lives in and around restuarants.

Brad's family operated the Sunrise Inn in Cooper Landing about 30 years ago. After moving to the Homer area, they owned a series of local restaurants, including The Waterfront, Glacier Drive Inn and The Homestead. After coming to the Kenai Peninsula from Montana at age 15, Brad grew into adulthood soaking in the atmosphere of restaurants.

Living in Homer since infancy, the former Barb Danby also got her hands wet in the business, first as a dishwasher at 15, then over the years moving into management.

The couple opened Fritz Creek General Store and Post Office in 1983. That was a family business, and Brad hopes their three sons, Saul, 19, Luke, 22, and Seth, 24 to eventually assume some part of the Duncan House operation.

After a summer of commercial fishing, Saul said he plans on working in the restaurant. Seth is likely to help with some graphic design in preparing menus and advertising. Luke is still in Arizona, where he works as a cook, and Brad is hoping he'll come back home in the near future.

"So all the family will be involved eventually," Brad said.

Even in Arizona, Barb found her way back into the business <> mostly in managing several cafes and resort-type facilities. Brad mostly continued in his career with the U.S. Postal Service. He's worked for the Postal Service in Homer, Ninilchik and Arizona.

The sale of the Duncan House offered the chance the couple was looking for to come home.

"We've always wanted to do it," Barb said, as she bustled back and forth between tables, kitchen and cash register as the lunch crowd filled the dining room.

Brad was quick to acknowledge that his wife is the dynamo that manages the busy operation. He helps out and runs errands, but Barb pretty much runs the show. She came up to help former owner Kathi Duncan for a few months while the sale was being negotiated.

The family moved from Arizona in a five-day trip up the Alaska Highway in March with two family vehicles and a friend's 22-foot truck crammed with household belongings, Brad said.

Once the restaurant settles down, and if a position opens up, Brad said he might continue working for the Postal Service. Right now he's on a leave of absence and content to build their new business.

"Having grown up around restaurants, we're pretty familiar with this," he said.

For longtime customers, the Duncan House is little different from years past. Although an expanded dinner menu is planned and some fresh buns have been added, the same hearty family style food continues.

Most of the 18 employees are longtime regulars who have worked at Duncan House for many years. As the business grows, a few more hires are expected, Brad said, but the restaurant is pretty much humming along as it always has.

"We did a little redecorating," Brad said, and added some artwork.

He plans on putting a little "more emphasis on Alaskana than before," but the decor still looks familiar.

One major difference planned is an extension of evening hours. Starting May 9, Duncan house will be open five evenings <> Thursday through Monday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Sunday when it will open at 8 a.m. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, hours will be 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For former owner Kathi Duncan, it's a chance to relax a bit with her husband, Roger, who retired about a year ago, ride in his motorcycle sidecar and do some fishing. But don't be surprised if she stops in for breakfast once in a while.