Cathie Anderson: Fresh Choice reinvents itself

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 - 7:51 am

The restaurant at 535 Howe Ave. looks just like Fresh Choice.

It has the same telephone number, a similar menu and pricing, and – much to the delight of regular customers such as Norman Pollitt – 70 percent of the friendly staff from Fresh Choice.

But it's not Fresh Choice. David Boyd, the president of Fresh Choice, couldn't revive the Emeryville restaurant company from its second go-round in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. It slid into a Chapter 7 liquidation in November, with debt totaling more than $5 million. All locations were closed, and assets were sold to satisfy creditors.

Boyd, however, wasn't ready to give up on the soup-and-salad concept. He quickly started a restaurant company called California Fresh and launched eateries at former Fresh Choice sites in Cupertino, San Leandro, Rohnert Park and now Sacramento.

Next will be the Douglas Boulevard location in Roseville, perhaps in a week or two, according to Steve Morgan, a restaurant industry veteran who's opening the local sites for California Fresh.

"This (Howe restaurant) was one of the locations that had been doing well, so the location itself didn't fail," said Morgan, a Rocklin native who worked for Fresh Choice in the 1990s and for Ghirardelli Chocolate's retail division. "… We put up some 'Now Open' banners, and word of mouth is starting to spread, so we're starting to see people come in who used to frequent it, and some people who … didn't realize that it had ever closed.

From Pasadena, with love

The Crocker Art Museum has long boasted an impressive ceramics collection, but until recently, it included just four pieces by Native American potters.

That number had risen to 60 by the end of 2012 – and it's growing. The increase is the result of a chance 2011 phone conversation between associate museum director Scott A. Shields and a Pasadena physician.

"He called and offered a piece of furniture that didn't really fit our collection," Shields said. "It was sort of out-of-field for us, and as I was declining that, he said, 'Well, what other things do you have an interest in?' And we sort of crossed paths on Native American art."

Dr. Loren Lipson now is working with Shields to find and buy pieces from pre-eminent Native American potters and their descendants. In fact, Lipson paid for the curator to scout pottery in Santa Fe, N.M. Providence struck as he returned to the airport.

"I'm the only one on the shuttle, and the guy who's driving says, 'What are you here for?' " Shields recalled, "And I said, 'Well, I'm here looking for Native American pottery. We have a donor who might be willing to help us acquire some.' We hadn't acquired any at this point. And, the guy says, 'You know, my best friends are Joseph Cerno and his wife, Barbara, and they're some of the best potters in the world.'

"When he started to tell me they're the best, I thought, 'Oh yeah, sure,' but then I looked at the list that I'd created and they're right at the top. He hands me his cellphone and he says, 'Here, talk to him.' The next thing I know, I'm on the phone with Joseph Cerno."

Wait, there's more …

Hollywood stunt geniuses Andy Armstrong and Gary Davis are waiting for word from Discovery and Warner Telepictures on whether the broadcasters will pick up their reality TV concept, "Armstrong Action."

You'll recall that the duo, along with producer Doug Stanley, invited skateboarding phenom William Spencer to Old Auburn to perform an aerial trick. They literally turned up the heat when Spencer arrived, explaining that he'd have to do it while on fire.

Davis, an Auburn resident, told me these are just the kind of extreme stunts he and Armstrong dream up when they work on pictures such as "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Thor."

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