When the Moose is Loose bakery closed in 2019, it left a donut-shaped hole in fans’ hearts.
Ever since, hungry Sterling Highway passersby have been taunted by the unfulfilled, mouth-watering promises of the building’s iconic pink storefront.
Not for much longer. The donuts are coming back.
“I didn’t want to open it immediately because of the COVID-19 and shortage of help, but I’m ready now,” said Niko Nikolich. He bought the bakery building from Bob and Diane Wallace last June and will open a new bakery there at the end of the month, under the same name.
It’s his second bakery. Nikolich has been running Alpine Cafe and Bakery in Girdwood for 32 years. Alpine, on the corner of the Seward Highway and the Alyeska access road, is known for its donuts, too.
Moose is Loose is bigger. Nikolich is taking advantage of the extra space to bring in a wider menu. He has a freezer with room for 16 ice cream flavors, an assemblage of coffee gadgets and a pizza oven.
The oven just came in from Italy. It took months to ship because of the pandemic.
“That’s a special pizza oven. They bake pizzas for 90 seconds on 700 Fahrenheit,” he said.
He also plans to serve sweet and savory French crepes.
Nikolich was trained in French cooking: When he started in Girdwood, he brought French bakers over from culinary school in Paris.
“So they teach me everything,” he said. “Italian food, French food, pizzas, baking.”
Nikolich was born in the former Yugoslavia. He wasn’t always in the bakery business.
“My first job in Alaska was as a special engineer years ago, when there was the pipeline build up,” he said.
After the pipeline, he worked on construction projects in Anchorage and built Marina Restaurant in Seward.
Now, he lives full-time in Girdwood. There’s an apartment above Moose is Loose where he’ll stay in while he’s in town with his husky puppy, Bruno.
After a year or two, he hopes to find a manager to live there and run the place. He said when coronavirus is long gone, he’ll try to bring over French chefs again.
For now, he’s looking for more staff to fill out a crew of 12, so he can open in just a few weeks.
Loyal fans of Alpine are not-so-patiently awaiting the opening.
“I do have a lot of customers in Girdwood from here, too,” he said. “They call almost every day, some of them. They want me to open the doors here.”
The Wallaces’ donuts put Moose is Loose on the map the first time around, and donuts will be a staple of the revival, too.
“We will have here American donuts and Hawaiian, I call them Hawaiian donuts. Actually, that’s South Pacific donuts,” he said.
Nikolich said they’ll use special fillings.
“Like guava, papaya, mango, coconut cream,” he said. “And also the difference with the Hawaiian donuts is you serve them hot.”
If you’re into that kind of thing. Nikolich likes to keep it classic.
“Usually I prefer, and donuts are the best to make with special flour, nothing else but butter, light brown sugar, baking powder, a little bit of salt,” he said. “That’s it. The best.”
Nikolich hopes to have Moose is Loose up and running by March 26.