Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: The price is right for Summer Thyme’s expansion in Grass Valley

Cathie Anderson
Cathie Anderson

The decision to move Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli a couple blocks over to 231 Colfax Ave. in Grass Valley was a bit of a no-brainer for owners Chamba and Amy Cooke after they punched up the numbers on a calculator.

They’re paying out the same amount of money, roughly $5,000 per month, Amy Cooke said, but they’re getting double the space at a property they are buying, not renting. Previously, the Cookes had leased not only their restaurant space but also their back parking lot and storage units.

“We were like, ‘And, we wouldn’t do this because ...?’ ” Amy Cooke deadpanned.

The Cookes are also now open in the evenings, and they showcased this fact and the versatility of their new home last weekend with a grand opening dinner. Using dividers, they created an intimate setting at the rear of the restaurant where jazz harpist Motoshi Kosako played two sets with bass player Bill Douglass, drummer Barry Eldridge and saxman Mike McMullen.

Many know Amy Cooke as the former head of school for Nevada City’s Woolman, a former Quaker school that now operates as a semester school and summer camp, but both she and her husband worked in restaurants. In the 1980s, Amy Cooke headed up the kitchen at Santa Fe’s Galisteo Inn where she sourced locally grown produce and cooked it up for such luminaries as actress Shirley MacLaine and feminist Bella Abzug. In the 1990s, both Cookes switched to teaching. While on maternity leave, Amy Cooke would send her husband off to work with leftovers for lunch.

“The other teachers would be like, ‘What are you eating? Can I have some?’ ” Amy Cooke said. “So I started this little catering business, packing lunches for the schoolteachers at his school.”

The Cookes learned in 2007 that the original owner of Summer Thyme’s was looking to sell, and they seized the opportunity to get back into the restaurant business. It all fell into place when Sacramento’s California Capital agreed to guarantee their small-business loan from Tri Counties Bank.

11-acre gift for Habitat

A Seattle-based company gave 11 acres of land to Sacramento Habitat for Humanity in December, the largest such donation in the affiliate’s 28-year history.

Ken Cross, the chief executive of Sacramento Habitat, actually learned that the donation might be a possibility back in January 2013 when he got an email from a consultant working with Saltchuk, a transportation and petroleum distribution company. Saltchuk had acquired two parcels – 5.7 acres across from Highlands High School on Walerga Road at Don Julio Boulevard and 5.4 acres near the Florin Road light-rail station – as part of a larger deal, and the value of the properties had tanked in the downturn.

Cross said he was told that, if the market didn’t improve, the company might be looking to donate the land to Sacramento Habitat. As 2013 progressed, Cross continued talks with the company, studied environmental impact reports and waited for the call. It came in December, and the deal closed by Dec. 27.

Cross said he will sit on the land until he finds the funding to make infrastructure improvements, and because the scale of their projects is so small, Sacramento Habitat could have to pay as much as $50,000 per lot. It’s a difficult task since the state did away with redevelopment dollars and Proposition 1C bond monies are draining down, Cross said. Habitat and other builders hope the Legislature will create a dedicated pool of money for affordable housing projects, advocating for SB 391 which would add a $75 transaction fee to property transfers to fund it. Builders would have to compete for the funds, as they have done with other funds in the past, Cross said.

If a public funding source doesn’t emerge, what will Habitat do with its 11-plus acres?

“It could be that we partner up with another developer where they come in and develop the lots, and they get a percentage and we get a percentage, and it’s truly an integrated project with people of all different income levels in it,” Cross said, “and it could be at some point we sell off the land to be able to generate income in case we can’t get the infrastructure dollars.”

Welcome mat out for Zia’s

Now that Shari Coia Fulton has moved Zia’s Caffe and Gelato Bar into El Dorado Town Center from Placerville’s Historic Main Street, she’s got her eye out for a really nice gelato cart.

“When they do all the events out at the amphitheater here – concerts and outdoor movies and things like that – then I can have my gelato cart out there,” she said.

Coia Fulton will be having an official grand opening for her cafe at 4364 Town Center Blvd. from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. But she’s already received a warm welcome from El Dorado Hills residents who are glad they no longer have to make the drive up the hill, and some hugs from longtime Placerville residents whose taste buds won’t allow them to hold a grudge. The spacious kitchen at Town Center will allow Coia Fulton room to accommodate wholesale production of her gelato, she said, but she wants to take time to assess what her own shop’s needs will be.