Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 1:40 PM on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New businesses add to eclectic mix on Spit

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


The eclectic mix on the Homer Spit of gift shops, galleries, clothing stores and restaurants has expanded this season with new businesses opening and familiar establishments relocating there.

Homer Sapiens

Homer Spit Road across from Seafarers' Memorial

11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily except closed Wednesdays

Business partners Brook Kintz and Kammi Matson have put together their graphic art and creative skills in Homer Sapiens, a store featuring products Matson describes as "all made locally by real Homer Sapiens." The shop at the end of a row of shops between Southcentral Radar and Fish Dock Row stands out with Lisa Krebs' Homer Sapiens sculpture mounted on the roof. "Creativity is our way of life" is Homer Sapiens' slogan.

"We want them to feel the sense of creativity," Matson said of customers.

Homer Sapiens sells original print T-shirts and stickers designed by Kintz and Matson and a wide range of locally made goods like NOMAR fleece apparel and Kari Multz' hats. Many of the items are made of recycled or repurposed material, including display racks. A lot of the items are handmade. Matson called the store "a real life Etsy," referring to the online handmade and vintage clothing website.

Matson also sells her line of hoops, formerly known as Cosmic Hoops and now called Hooper Sapiens. The exercise and dance hoops that are an updating of the 1960s Hula Hoops now come in a collapsible design small enough to pack in a suitcase.

"It's fun. I get to do all the things I love under one roof," Matson said. "It's fun to be in a space to create things."


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Charity Garritson works the counter at the AK Starfish Co. shop opened by owner Marci Nelson this summer.

AK Starfish Co.

Cannery Row Boardwalk

10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily

Third-generation Alaskan Marci Nelson has returned to her Homer roots with her AK Starfish Co. shop on the Spit selling her original screen printed designs. Nelson's grandfather, Donald Nelson, homesteaded in Homer in the 1940s. Raised in Anchorage, Nelson has been a frequent visitor to Homer since childhood.

"I feel like I'm coming back home with having the shop here," she said.

The AK Starfish Co. iconic image of a true star came from a photo she took on a visit to Sadie Cove. Her elegant designs of sea stars, salmon, ravens and fireweed all use the same stippled drawing style and appear on zipped and pullover hoodies, shirts, skirts and yoga pants. New designs of seaweed and jelly fish are in production.

"People really seem to resonate with the raven," Nelson said. "A lot of times it's the design they're attracted to first."

An English teacher at Dimond High School in Anchorage, Nelson stared AK Starfish Co. in 2003 and sells her clothing at craft fairs, the Alaska State Fair, shops in Spenard and Seward and wholesale through other stores. AK Starfish Co. clothing previously had been sold at White Earth Tile on the Spit, a shop owned by Nelson's friend Michelle La Friniere.

"She was a loyal Spit business that gave me a chance to be in Homer prior to opening my own shop," Nelson said.

Homer friends have welcomed her to town, she said. Her former English teacher, Marie Bader, now a Kachemak Bay oyster farmer, brought her fresh oysters. Nelson also has been making new friends and business contacts, like photographer Jamie Clapp, who did a photo shoot for Nelson's website and Facebook page.

Her Cannery Row shop formerly was a halibut charter office. Nelson converted a fish cleaning table into a raised garden. When working in Homer, Nelson stays in a loft apartment above her shop.

"I'm just really loving it," she said. "I'm calling this — secretly — my favorite shop."


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Vida Bunchim stands in the window of her Thai food trailer near Coal Point Seafoods.

Vida's Thai Food

By Coal Point Seafoods

11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; closed Thursdays

From a converted motorhome, Vida's Thai Food has been attracting fans wherever Vida Bunchim finds a spot to set up business. Last summer she operated on Ocean Drive, but this summer she's in the heart of the Spit by Coal Point Seafoods. Born and raised in Thailand, Bunchim has brought old family recipes of traditional and exotic Thai food. She's been in the United States 10 years, first living in Los Angeles. She has been in Homer four years.

Her menu includes classic Thai dishes like Pad Thai, green curry and spring rolls, with most items under $10. Vida's Thai attracts locals, tourists and Spit workers alike.

"They're happy I'm here," Bunchim said.

Food is take out, but with the beach nearby and tables and benches along the Coal Point Boardwalk, there are plenty of places to sit down and enjoy a quick meal.

When the Spit closes down after Labor Day, Bunchim said she'll move her kitchen to East End Road at K-Bay Caffe next to the Kachemak Gear Shed.


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Linda Thompson stands in front of her son Erik Behnke's prints and original drawings.

Brown Bear Gallery and Products

Coal Point Boardwalk

11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily

After summers visiting Alaska art and craft fairs, award winning Homer artist Erik Behnke and his mother, Linda Thompson, have settled down with a summer shop on the Coal Point Boardwalk. Brown Bear Gallery and Products features Behnke's original drawings as well as prints. Known for his bold, bright color-pen drawings of animals and people, Behnke's work was recently shown in New York for DOWNrightART, part of a celebration of visual and performing arts for World Down Syndrome Day. Thompson also displays her knit creations as well as her Carry-bou line of bags. In the gallery previously run by Chick and Barb Deal, Brown Bear also shows the Deals' jewelry. Other artists shown include Claire O'Donnell, Cindy Nelson, Deb Lowney, Ted Heuer, Dave and Caryl Christy, Marilee Dupree, Joanne Thordarson, Maureen Chambrone, Kathee Kiefer and Renee Jahnke. Thompson also sells her books about Behnke's discovery of his artistic gifts, "Erik's Story" and "It's OK Mom."


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Deanna Hebard, left, and Greg Hebard, right, stand by their new Spit business, Eagle Vision, an outdoor clothing and supply shop.

Eagle Vision Sunglasses and Apparel

Cannery Row Boardwalk

11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily

Campers, hikers and fishermen heading out on Kachemak Bay who need last-minute supplies have another outlet on the Spit: Greg and Deanna Hebard's Eagle Vision Sunglasses and Apparel. The business name describes the store's major line: Eagle Vision and other name brand sunglasses. Eagle Vision also sells coats, hoodies, hats, rain jackets and other outdoor gear as well as items like water bottles and water purifiers. The Hebards bring 35 years of experience in the outdoor gear business owning and operating the Blue Mountain Sports chain of stores in eastern Oregon.

Eagle Vision caters to both older and younger outdoor enthusiasts, with lines that suit all ages of fashion taste. High tech gear includes battery powered water filters that purify using ultraviolet light and even Skull Candy earbuds. Greg Hebard demonstrated a new waterproof fabric, charged cotton, on an Under Armor hooded sweatshirt that water doesn't even penetrate.

The Hebards had fished and visited in Homer for eight years before deciding to set up a summer shop.

"There's just a lot of energy here we liked," Greg Hebard said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael. armstrong@homernews.com.