Cathie Anderson

Insights into the people who shape Sacramento’s business landscape

Cathie Anderson: Paragary’s restaurant will close Feb. 17 for $600,000 makeover

02/08/2014 12:00 AM

02/07/2014 9:45 PM

Randy Paragary is undertaking an extensive $600,000 remodel of his namesake restaurant at 28th and N streets in Sacramento. Paragary’s Bar and Oven will close Feb. 17 and won’t reopen until August, at the earliest.

Longtime Sacramento residents will recall that Paragary originally founded Lord Beaverbrooks bar at this location back in 1975, and when he converted it to Paragary’s Bar and Oven in 1983, the decor didn’t change much.

“It was the same woodwork, the same bar, the same everything that’s been there for 40 years,” Paragary told me, “and when I bought the building and converted it to Lord Beaverbrooks, it was already a bar prior to that. The bar that’s down there is the old bar that came with the place, so God knows how old that is.”

The renovation will touch every floor, every ceiling, every wall and all the furniture, Paragary said. He and his partners – his wife, Stacy Paragary, and executive chef Kurt Spataro – plan to replace one wall with floor-to-ceiling windows, so diners can see into the restaurant courtyard. The menu will continue to stress fresh, local and seasonal dishes, but it will take on a French emphasis rather than Mediterranean. Employees will work in other Paragary Restaurant Group restaurants until the landmark eatery reopens.

A fixture in Sacramento’s fine-dining scene for 30 years, Paragary’s Bar and Oven has been the site of many a proposal or first date. So before the remodel, customers have a chance to reminisce about romantic moments in a familiar old haunt and to win a free Valentine’s Day meal. Email your love story, 200 words or less, to marketing@paragarys.com by Sunday to enter the Paragary’s Love Stories Contest.

Cooking up growth

Christopher Johnson started life as an inventor by creating a microwaveable ramen cooker, and it’s been so successful that he’s feverishly working to expand his product line for next month’s International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago.

Johnson is aiming to make cooking both rice and macaroni and cheese faster and less messy in the microwave. Just as with his ramen cooker, Johnson is creating dishes with fill lines for water and heat-resistant handles.

“It’s about a 20-minute process to make mac and cheese on the stovetop right now, and we are going to cut that down to where it’s only going to take five minutes ... ,” Johnson said, “and there are rice cookers on the market, but they still take 15 to 20 minutes, and there’s no rice cookers for single servings of rice. Some people just want to be able to make a single serving of rice for a meal.”

Johnson sold 60,000 Rapid Ramen cookers in January, he said, and monthly sales have been on an upward trajectory. Depending on the order size, Sacramento’s Pride Industries has 20 to 40 people with disabilities working to fulfill orders for the cookers. They are sold at major retailers such as Amazon.com, Bed Bath & Beyond, CVS, Meijer, Raley’s, Safeway, Sears/ Kmart, Walgreens and 400 Walmarts.

“What I didn’t know at the start of this journey is that ramen is the third-fastest-selling item in all of grocery,” said the 35-year-old Johnson, who with his wife, Shawna, welcomed a fourth child into their Wilton home six months ago.

Sales of the Rapid Ramen cooker really exploded last year after Johnson’s appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Two cookers sell for $12.99.

An unlikely harvest

Jason Cuff, 40, graduated from Stanford University with a psychology degree and worked for years as a special-education teacher. Glen Baldwin, a 47-year-old Humboldt State grad, has a bachelor’s in physical science. Until Dec. 31, he had worked for years at CalRecycle. Last July, the two men embarked on second careers as founders of Hearty Fork Farm.

If it hadn’t been for Winters’ California Farm Academy, their unlikely partnership might never have happened. A seven-month training program run by the Center for Land-Based Learning, the academy grounds wannabe farmers in the fundamentals of success. Cuff and Baldwin each qualified to lease a half-acre of land as part of the academy’s business incubator program, and they combined their land and labor.

“I came from working in big ag fields (in the Willamette Valley),” Cuff told me, “and most of the people in big ag said, ‘No one should ever go into farming because there’s no money and it’s a rough life. There’s no real reward at the end.’ I saw a lot of farmers who were not real happy.”

At the farm academy, he and Baldwin met plenty of small farmers who told them about the personal influence they had with consumers and restaurateurs. Baldwin and Cuff were only five months into the academy when they began farming. They invested about $7,000 to buy seed and fertilizer and secure licensing. They turned a tiny profit on sales at farmers’ markets at Sacramento’s Country Club Plaza and Elk Grove’s Laguna Gateway. That’s where they’ll be this morning.

They are negotiating to lease 8 acres from a Davis-area farmer. The California Farm Academy is still welcoming applications for its 2014 class, which begins Tuesday. To learn more, visit landbasedlearning.org and click on the programs tab.

 

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