Do you remember Nikko Garden, the Chop Suey House or Snow White Laundry and Cleaners? Meet Anchorage's pioneer family, the Kimura's in this edition.
Water color of Nikko Garden by Alaska artist Cindy Pendleton
The story of the Kimura family in Anchorage doesn’t start with Nikko Garden, but for those of us who lived in Anchorage when the original restaurant was still in Spenard, this picture holds a treasure chest of memories.
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One Afternoon at the 4th Avenue Theater, Long Ago
Somewhere between the newsreel and the main movie, I sat there, a young boy in the 4th Avenue Theater above, when an ad filled the screen.
The first thing I noticed was that it was for a local Anchorage business. I had heard the name, “Snow White Laundry and Cleaners” many times before, but knew nothing about them. But I found myself being fascinated by their movie theater ad.
You see, Snow White Laundry and Cleaners got it’s humble start back in the days when Anchorage was just a “tent City”.
It was muddy, crude and only there because of the Alaska Railroad.
Welcome to Anchorage around 1914, 1915 and 1916. It was just a “tent city” that sprang up around the mouth of Ship Creek.
Yusuke “Harry” Kimura and Katsuyo (Yamasaki) Kimura moved from Seattle to what was then Anchorage and took over a small hand laundry from a relative and gave it the name “H&K Hand Laundry. It was located near 5th Avenue and C Street.
There was no running water.
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Chop Suey House
Then Harry opened the Cop Suey House next door to the laundry.
The Kimura Family Grows
Clockwise from left.
Sam Kimura, William (Bill) Kimura, George Kimura, Louise Kimura Wood.
World War II
In 1941, Harry Kimura was locked in a barracks at Anchorage’s Fort Richardson as part of America’s wartime “internment” program.
During that time, his son George was in basic training and was given MP duty outside the detention center.
Snow White Laundry and Cleaners
After World War II, the Kimuras returned to Anchorage and expanded their H&K Hand Laundry into Snow White Laundry and Cleaners.
Along the way, they also opened a restaurant called “The Golden Pheasant Cafe on D Street between 4th and 5th Avenues.
Opened in 1966 and located on Spenard Road near Spenard Lake, Nikko Garden was Anchorage’s finest Oriental restaurant.
For many years, it was “the” place to go in Anchorage.
A Very Special Note:
Today (June 7) marks the 50th wedding anniversary for me (Mike) and my wife Mary.
I mention this here, because for many years, Mary and I celebrated our anniversary with dinner in one of those memorable private rooms in Nikko Garden.
Today, that restaurant location is but a wonderful memory for so many Alaskans.
In 1979, Nikko Garden burned down.
I was shooting news video for KTVA at that time and following the fire, I was assigned to go inside and shoot video of the charred remains. I can still remember the strange, tragic sight of the pond that ran the length of the restaurant.
It was covered with black soot and burnt debris was floating in the once beautiful water.
But we will always have the wonderful memories of this fine Kimura restaurant.
Sam Kimura became a photographer and taught at the University of Anchorage, Alaska for 23 years.
William “Bill” Kimura became a painter, sculptor and teacher.
The Nikko Garden - Gwennie’s Connection
Gwennie Thornton and George Kimura
Anchorage Memories did a story about Gwennie’s Old Alaskan Restaurant in Spenard.
Gwennie told us that when her and her mother first came to Anchorage, they rented an apartment from the Kimura family and got to know them.
Then one evening, many years later, Gwennie decided to drive down Spenard road from her restaurant and visit Nikko Garden.
When she walked in the restaurant and George Kimura saw her, he nearly fainted because he hadn’t seen her in so many years.
You can read more about Anchorage’s Kimura Family right now.
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Comments from our VIP members
I’ve learned a lot about my hometown and you’ve jogged memories of things I haven’t thought about for years. I can only say YAY! Juanita.
Well done and thank you for the trip down memory lane. Diana
I remember going to the movies as a kid at the old 4th Avenue Theater. You could watch a movie for a cereal box top and 10-25 cents on Saturday Patti
Do You Have Pictures?
photo courtesy of Cindy Pendleton (Anchorage in 1968)
Anchorage Memories is looking for pictures of Anchorage in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
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Where did the time go?
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Until next time
Mike & Mary