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Napa Diners Lament Restaurant Closure

The abrupt closing of Marie Callender's leaves loyal customers looking for a new place to eat.

Napan Marlene Mansfield was shocked to discover she would not get her fish and chips at Friday afternoon.

The north Napa restaurant, along more than 50 California locations in the Perkins-Marie Callender's chain, unexpectedly closed last Sunday afternoon with no warning to its roughly 30 employees and many loyal customers.

Mansfield and her husband regularly enjoyed breakfast and lunch at Marie Callender's about three times a week, she said. They had just returned home from vacation and had not heard anything about the closure until they arrived to find the parking lot empty and the eatery dark.

“I’m just shocked. I can’t believe it’s closed. We have been coming here for 14 years,” Mansfield said.

There is no notice informing customers of the closure, but the building's exterior has been stripped of the colorful signs and banners that once promoted its pies and meal specials to passing motorists on Highway 29.

Mansfield said she would likely take her business and appetite to the Black Bear Diner on Soscol Avenue in south Napa.

Also surprised to learn of the abrupt closure was the restaurant's next-door neighbor, 60-room . Marie Callender’s offered the hotel guests a complementary continental breakfast or $5 discount off its menu.

James Engstrom, the inn’s general manager, said he is scrambling to fill the void created by the shuttered restaurant.

“We are in negotiations with other nearby restaurants,” Engstrom said Friday. “We received no advance warning this was going to happen. It was a corporate decision. We had no idea something was going on.”

“I really feel sorry for the employees and customers. Some of the workers have been with them at least 14 years that I am aware of,” said Engstrom, who has worked at the hotel for that long.

“I really hurt for them (workers.)"

Engstrom said he found out about the closure from hotel guests who were unable to get something to eat.

“It has been a trying week for us,” he said, adding this is the beginning of the busy season for the inn.

Other disappointed customers include Ivey Shirley, who drove all the way from Vallejo Friday to have a chicken potpie lunch.

“I think this is awful. Before coming here, I used to go to the one in Fairfield until it closed several years ago. So I started coming here for breakfast and lunch,” Shirley said.

She was also attracted to the restaurant for its salad bar. A lot of places don’t offer that any more, she said.

“They also had a fantastic Sunday champagne brunch. And they had a lot of good shade,” Shirley said, adding she and her husband like to make the drive with their dog.

New York-based investment firm Castle Harlan Inc. closed its Perkins-Marie Callender's chain under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, which allows for reorganization.

According to a corporate press release, Perkins & Marie Calender’s filed for the protection due to “a sharp decline in restaurant sales.”

The company listed total assets at $290 million and liabilities of $440.8 million.

Corporate representatives who visited the Napa site Friday declined to identify themselves or the owner of the property at 1998 Trower Ave.

Fish June 19, 2011 at 01:54 PM
This place, and its mediocre, generic food will not be missed by me or anyone I know. As Napa grows into the food and wine destination that it should have been a decade ago, places like this become less and less welcome. Visitors and locals alike aren't hungry for the same old thing when they go out to eat. Anyone can open up a pack of frozen food and deep fry it. Napa deserves more and better, and with Marie Callender's gone, there is room for something interesting, and better yet, locally owned.
Tom Ontis June 19, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Fish, you're the true definition of a snob. I lived in Napa before it was the 'wine country,' and we managed quite well. Callendars is where I go for my pie, my area now has a Nations, but I'm sure you wouldn't lower yourself to the one on Third Street in Napa.
Jeffrey Wright June 19, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Napa does deserve better, when are you leaving ??
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) June 19, 2011 at 06:17 PM
I don't mind and actually enjoy a lively exchange of differing opinions, but we do have some very simple ground rules. "Fish," and Jeff W. too, when you signed up for your Napa Patch accounts you agreed to use your first and last names when commenting. As Jeff has observed, I enforce this rule with discretion. But it's really not okay to sit behind a screen name and use Napa Patch to broadcast derogatory comments. Tom Ontis really is Tom Ontis and stands behind his opinion. Who are you?
Tom Emmons June 19, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Thanks, Louisa. As I posted elsewhere earlier today: "If you really have something to say about things, use your real name. Otherwise you don't have any authority. "Anonymous" is attributable to too many people." And it's not appreciated either.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) June 19, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Right on, Tom. There are enough places online for trolls to insult each other as anonymously as they like.
Jeffrey Wright June 19, 2011 at 10:39 PM
So maybe you would be so kind as to tell me how to change my screen name because I am anything but a troll lady !!!
Tom Emmons June 19, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Jeff, at the top of the page is a link in the upper right. It should say "Hi, JEFF W." By clicking it, you go to your profile, and in the quick links on the left there is a link that says "Edit Profile". You should be able to modify your name there. Hope that helps. :-)
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) June 19, 2011 at 11:29 PM
Thanks for the assist, Tom -- I was out shooting photos this afternoon. Jeff, I definitely did not think you were a troll lady! 8-)
Robert Ceballos June 20, 2011 at 03:04 AM
I'm not a Marie Callenders fan but my parents love it; to each his own. Plenty of people in the community will miss it. I also think plenty of 'good'restaurants are over priced, rip-offs... not enough bang for the buck for me to support them ... i.e. Gott's & C Casa. So what do I do? I avoid them but I would never gloat about their denizens loosing something they value. Diversity is a good thing... who gives a $%#* what other people think? So juvenile.
Jeffrey Wright June 20, 2011 at 04:29 AM
Thank you...
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) June 20, 2011 at 10:20 AM
I tried to eat at MC's once last year, but nobody showed up to seat us and other people were walking out because they hadn't been waited on, so we split wondering what was up ... Meanwhile the new Taste of Himalaya is open at the Old Adobe on Soscol and we had a great dinner there last night.
Tom Emmons June 20, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Your welcome! :-)
Fish August 10, 2011 at 02:14 PM
The Nations on 3rd is my local, go-to burger joint, the place I go for pie, as well as one of my favorite places for a good old-fashioned breakfast. Maybe I'm a snob, or maybe MC's provided poor service, a dirty eating experience, and sub-par food.

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