Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (2023)

Jennifer Huffmann

Say "meet me on ABC" and most Napanians probably know exactly where to go.

Unfortunately, the former coffee shop and day-trip destination in downtown Napa isn't serving food, at least for now.

Citing the impact of COVID-19 and the rigors of running a restaurant for the past 30 years, owner Alexis Handelman closed ABC (Alexis Baking Company and Cafe) on December 1.

The restaurant could reopen if a new owner is found, Handelman said.

It was not an easy decision to close, Handelman said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

"I've had an extraordinary journey at ABC and I'm proud of the work we've done," she said. "I've invested many years and worked very, very hard."

But as his cafe and the restaurant industry in general became caught up in COVID-19 dining restrictions, it became "financially unsustainable" to continue, he said. For example, "The last week after Thanksgiving was bleak," he said. With another closure imminent, it was "obvious" what the company was facing.

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"Nobody can deny that trying to tap-dance during COVID is easy," she said.

As with most other restaurants, "we have a very small profit margin," he explained. Any disruption such as B. closures due to COVID-19 could be ruinous.

Yes, Handelman has tried other options. It has expanded its outdoor seating. She offered takeout. But trying it alone is very difficult, she said. She needs to think about her employees, many of whom have been with her for decades, Handelman said.

"I paid my people very well and provided them with medical care," says the small business owner. He had already reduced his staff to the bare essentials, but he did not want to forgo wages and medical care.

"I've done my best to make it work, but there's not much you can do," he said.

"It got to the point where I had to look at all the factors ... to not go bankrupt and try to fill the void I had every month."

Handelman is a tenant in the building, which is owned by Rolando Macaraig and has a mailing address in Lafayette. Macaraig owns the triangle of land between Terceira, Quarta and Escola Streets which includes the ABC building, an adjacent liquor store, car park and other commercial properties. ABC is located at 1517 Third St. in downtown Napa.

Reached by phone, Macaraig said he would miss ABC and Handelman.

"They worked very hard," he said. “Alexis, she is an icon. I wish I had survived."

"Hopefully someone comes along who can do it right and make Napa better," Macaraig said.

Handelman said he felt the only option he had was to try to sell the business.

"The good news is that a lot of people have started buying it, some of whom are showing great promise."

It's premature to say more at this point, but "we can move forward with ABC to a degree," Handelman said. "And I will work hard for that."

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Handelman said she feels fortunate and honored "that people saw her worth, and I'm grateful that there was someone younger who still had the spark to make it happen."

"I am pleased to hand over these reins to someone who can continue the effort."

One of her fondest ABC memories is working with her bakers and chefs, her employees and customers.

"We had to guide a lot of people through life's great celebrations ... everything from the birth of babies to the deaths of family members and us at their funerals," he recalled.

Community is vital to Handelman. She was keen to support the school's efforts by giving musicians and artists a place to perform and exhibit their work, and by helping charitable organizations and other endeavors.

"I felt like it was the right thing to do," he said. Handelman wanted to create a company where everyone felt safe, comforted... and empowered, he said.

"I've been very, very lucky" to create such a place, he said.

Kim Stevenson from Napa worked at ABC for 20 years. The closure hurts, he said. ABC Bakery was a special place.

On the one hand, "it's really nice to be proud of the product you sell," Stevenson said in a phone interview. “The food there is great.” Regulars and longtime employees "were like a little family."

Over the years, Stevenson has seen the business and Napa change.

The number of customers, both locals and visitors, has been growing, he said. The use of laptops and cell phones has increased. Food trends like Atkins and gluten-free foods have come and gone, "but everyone still loves pancakes," she said.

This is the first time Stevenson has had this much time off work in many years.

"There are good days and bad days," he said. "It's a bit surreal," to be honest, she said. "I can't wait for things to get back to normal a little bit. I'm a habit and routine person. It is important to me."

But if a new owner steps in, "it could also be an exciting time for ABC," as well as an opportunity for former employees to return to the cafe.

If a new owner were to ask her opinion on what made ABC successful, Stevenson said she would give this advice: "Take care of your regular customers because that's an important part of ABC. Be a part of the community like Alexis always was. That was very special about ABC, so many benefits and contributions that it has made."

It says a lot about Handelman that so many of his employees were "permanent," Stevenson said.

She "worked so hard and built such a great business."

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Photos: Napa's ABC Bakery over the years

ABC 1990

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (1)

Alexis Handelman von Alexis Baking Company

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (2)

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Alexis Handelman von ABC Bakery

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (3)

ABC Bakery: 2017 Small Business of the Year

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (4)

Dye Easter eggs at ABC Bakery

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (5)

Dye Easter eggs at ABC Bakery

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (6)

ABC-Story 2004

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (7)

ABC Bakery celebrates its first birthday, October 1991, page 1

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (8)

ABC Bakery, Herbst 1991, S.2

Napa's ABC Cafe is affected by COVID restrictions and is closed (9)

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Reporter Jennifer Huffman can be reached at 256-2218


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Jennifer Huffmann

business publisher

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and general reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been on the register since 2005.

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