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    Central Terminal B's version of the Esquire Grill.

  • Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Casual restaurants recover faster from recession, Randy Paragary says

Published: Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013 - 10:07 am

Café Bernardo, Paragary's Bar and Oven, Centro Cocina Mexicano, Esquire Grill and now Hock Farm. Gee, Randy Paragary, why are there so many different brands in your restaurant group?

"It was a geographic requirement," Paragary told me. "You can't do the same thing in the same neighborhood."

In midtown Sacramento, where Paragary got his start almost 45 years ago, he is his own competition. The restaurateur said that he didn't realize until the recession, though, just what a good idea it was to have restaurants in both the casual and white-linen dining segments.

"We saw a decrease in business of about a third in places like Esquire Grill and Spataro, the more expensive dinner houses," he said. "At Bernardo's, I don't think we ever saw a third. We might have seen a 10 percent decrease."

Revenue at casual Café Bernardo also bounced back more quickly, while the receipts at the fine-dining houses didn't begin growing until just last year.

High-end restaurant chains such as Ruth's Hospitality Group saw big losses from continuing operations in 2008 and haven't climbed back to pre-recession levels.

Paragary and his partners, wife Stacy Paragary and executive chef Kurt Spataro, are expanding on the casual end of their business. They put a Café Bernardo into the Cosmo Café spot on K Street and are replacing Spataro, a few blocks away on L Street, with Hock Farm.

A truckload of sales

Believe it or not, dozens of Sacramentans will line up April 2 to buy chicken out of the back of a truck. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people are doing it across the nation.

An outfit called Zaycon Foods sells chicken, sockeye salmon, ground beef and the like at bargain prices. Their chicken breasts are currently selling for $1.79 a pound. The trick is, consumers must buy by the case. That's 40 pounds, co-owner Mike Conrad explained.

"This all happened because my brother didn't have a job," Conrad said.

"My brother used to be a meat manager at a supermarket, and he tried selling meat in bulk and it seemed to work. … He ended up selling 850 cases of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, just from word of mouth."

Mike Conrad and his cousin Adam Kremin ended up buying out Conrad's brother J.C., and they continued to run the company in their native Spokane, Wash.

"We grew 1,000 percent in the first two years, literally from $40,000 to $400,000 and then from $400,000 to $4.7 million in 2011," Conrad said, "and then last year we did $9.7 million."

Customers must sign up at and make purchases online. They get email alerts on when to make purchases and where to pick up deliveries.

Zaycon's website said the April 2 date is sold out in Sacramento, but there's a waiting list. Another chicken delivery may not come until six months down the road. That's why customers buy so much.

Roller rink, 'barn,' office

When a buyer walks into a property and describes it as 'kind of barnlike,' you might think that this sale is going nowhere, but commercial brokers Nahz Anvary and Jim Gray of Cassidy Turley weren't worried.

Their client was the Agriculture and Natural Resources Division at the University of California, which runs research and cooperative extension services up and down the state. The division has 150 employees spread all around Davis and wanted to consolidate them in one location.

UC found just the right spot at 2801 Second St. in Davis, an indoor roller hockey rink that later served as a temporary home for the Yolo County Library and the Explorit Science Center.

It will pay $8.1 million to buy the building and renovate it, but no state funds will be used, said Jan Corlett, chief of staff to the division's vice president.

Architect Tyler Babcock of MFDB Architects in Sacramento is the man behind the design, charged with turning a roller rink into a green office building.

He's maintained the skylights, large windows and openness, strategically placing glass-faced offices under a new mezzanine level.

"We just tucked them underneath that … (mezzanine) floor … and arranged them in a doughnut shape," Babcock said, "so we could preserve the sense of openness, of that large volume, and the light gets to penetrate all through the space, and you don't lose the character and the scale."

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193.

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