Fiddlehead Restaurant owner looks for buyer

Posted: Friday, January 20, 2006

Many Juneau residents and legislative staffers returning to town after the holidays are hearing the shocking news: Their favorite restaurant is closed.

It's true. Juneau's award-winning Fiddlehead Restaurant & Bakery and the upstairs dining room, Di Sopra, are closed and up for sale.

"Cookie eating around here will never be the same," said Michael O'Hare, legislative aide to Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River.

The bakery's fantasy cookie was a favorite of Mary Lou Spartz. It had some competition from the seafood, though.

"The food was the reason to go," said Spartz, who works in an art gallery downtown. "They made every effort to do the halibut justice."

Owner Kirk Stagg said he's bowing out after six and a half years because he wants to spend more time with his wife, Sylvia Kreel, and 2-year-old son, Zachary.

Stagg said the Willoughby Avenue restaurant, a Juneau institution for 25 years, has three prospective buyers interested in the property with intentions to keep it as a restaurant. The sale is a package deal for the Fiddlehead and Di Sopra.

The restaurant was recognized on the national scene by Wine Spectator magazine for its wine list and it received a three-diamond rating out of five from auto club AAA.

"Especially downstairs, this was a place where people have been coming for years," Stagg said.

Di Sopra was an addition that Stagg added when he took over the business. It offered Mediterranean and Italian dishes against the backdrop of a Tuscan scene mural.

"People not only felt like they were in a different place, but in a different country," Stagg said.

The business went on the market six months ago and closed in October when Stagg said buyers began to make offers. If the price isn't right, he may reopen the restaurant, he said.

Some Driftwood Lodge guests stayed in the hotel because of the restaurant, said Rick Kasnick, president of the corporation that owns the Driftwood.

Stagg is looking into other business opportunities, but it won't be in the restaurant business, he said.

Legislators and their staffs staying in the hotel long-term stopped regularly for breakfast and dinner.

"At least the cookbook lives on," said Judy Ohmer, chief of staff for Kott.

"The Fiddlehead Cookbook: Recipes from Alaska's Most Celebrated Restaurant and Bakery," continues to be offered at stores and online. Among its authors is Fiddlehead founder Deborah Marshall.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com.



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