Kerry and Richard Wycoff hold a picture of their son, Michael, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in front of a new business they are starting in his honor located at Louie's Douglas Inn.

Kerry and Richard Wycoff hold a picture of their son, Michael, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in front of a new business they are starting in his honor located at Louie's Douglas Inn.

Rallying around the grill: Nano’s Grill helps family keep late son’s spirit alive

When Kerry and Richard Tucker’s son Michael passed away in April, like many grieving parents they were despondent: Richard found it hard taking direction at work; Kerry would spend most of the day “just waiting for him to walk back through the door.”

Eventually, finding it hard to focus, they both quit their jobs. The details of the workday paled in comparison to their loss.

“It took the legs from underneath the both of us,” Richard said. “Michael kept the whole family going. He was the life of the party everywhere he went.”

The Tuckers say they will never fill the void their son Michael left, but with the help of family and friends, they’ve found a therapeutic distraction: grilling bar food.

Their new restaurant Nano’s Grill, located directly behind Louie’s Douglas Inn, will hold its grand opening Dec. 20.

“This is our therapy,” Richard said. “We’re going to try and use Nano’s to make our way through life. It’s all my wife and I have to keep us going.”

The husband-and-wife team have retooled their previous business “Richard’s Wings,” which Michael ran before his death, and renamed it to honor their son, known as “Nano” to his mother. The grill has been open for limited hours Thursday-Sunday since July, with Kerry and Richard working under a tent stand behind Louie’s.

“It’s not about the money, because I know we’re not going to make a lot, but just to see her (Kerry) smile once or twice a week is enough for me. That’s where I am in life,” Richard said.

The Tuckers believe opening a restaurant is the best way to honor Michael.

“Rap music and food, those were his two things,” Kerry said. “Mikey would be proud of this, it’s what he would want us to do. … We find pleasure in doing it because we know it’s just for him.”

The project was a family effort.

When Michael passed, Kerry’s sister Jewell moved to Juneau from Healy, Alaska to help look after her grieving sister. She took a job at Louie’s, where coincidentally bar owner Abby Williams was looking for a new restaurant to sate her patrons’ appetites. Williams has seen three food trucks come and go in the three years she’s owned Louie’s and was ready to back something more permanent.

Jewell proposed the idea to Kerry, who accepted. She says she hasn’t seen her sister smile other than when she’s at Nano’s Grill.

“There’s a lot of people at a bar who can sympathize. Some people in here have gone through a lot,” Jewell said. “I think she enjoys seeing some of the kids that come around here, and just seeing her smile, that’s the biggest thing.”

So Kerry and Richard started working under a pop-up tent behind Louie’s, cooking the day away in an attempt to distract themselves. When Williams saw Kerry and Richard’s dedication — and tasted their food — she seized an opportunity to create something longer-lasting.

“They were working their butts off, rain or shine,” Williams said. “I had to send Kerry home one day because that tent wasn’t built for the fall or winter. I told her, ‘You can’t sit out here in the rain.’”

To secure the Tuckers’ talent in the long term, Williams teamed up with the couple and North Pacific Erectors to build a permanent space behind Louie’s, which they will debut at the grand opening.

“They’ve been really successful under a tent, I am excited to see what they can do with a real work station,” Williams said.

Nano’s is currently open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4:30-11 p.m. and all day on Sundays. After the grand opening, Nano’s will be open seven days a week.

• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.

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