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Bagels and café planned for Napa's former ABC café location
Dining

Bagels and café planned for Napa's former ABC café location

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You could say that potato buns saved Paulie Brown’s buns.

Brown, whose full name is Paulie W. Brown, the fourth, owns Paulie’s Bagels in Napa — “Real East-Coast- style bagels made with organic flour.”

However, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, his bagel-making business was very much in jeopardy.

“I was completely wiped out,” said Brown. Thanks to restaurant closures due to the county shutdown, orders for Paulie’s Bagels had almost completely dried up. In addition, Brown was laid off from his teaching job at the CIA.

“I almost gave up,” said Brown.

He’s glad he didn’t. Today, after starting a bun baking business during the pandemic, Brown has recovered.

Not only has his business doubled, he’s also opening a new café in coming months with a new business partner at an old Napa location — the former Alexis Baking Company or ABC, 1517 Third St. The new eatery will be called Winston’s Cafe and Bakery, featuring Paulie’s Bagels.

One year ago, Brown could have hardly imagined such a scenario.

That’s where the potato buns come into play.

Used by many local restaurants and other merchants, the buns were formerly made by Alexis Baking Company.

Right around the same time that ABC closed, “people started asking me about my potato buns,” explained Brown.

After all, “I’m not just a bagel guy,” he noted.

So Brown started making buns as well as bagels. A lot of buns.

“That’s become my bread and butter,” pun intended, he said.

With the new bun orders, an updated website and adding home delivery, “I was able to get enough traction to stay the course.”

“Bit by bit, some voice inside me made me not give up.”

A new cafe, serving Paulie's Bagels, will open in the coming months in downtown Napa. The space was formerly home to Napa's ABC (Alexis Baking Company).

Another lucky break came when Brown met Alex Macaraig.

Macaraig’s family owns the Third Street parcel that housed ABC. 

"I grew up cooking, said Macaraig. "This has always been something I've been wanting to do," since he was a kid. 

Together the two came up with the concept for Winston’s Cafe and Bakery, featuring Paulie’s Bagels.

“We’re going to be a bagel joint and bakery” that is community-focused, said Brown. The café, serving breakfast and lunch at first, will be “approachable for everybody,” using the space “to give people what they want.”

That will include expanding the area inside the café for more seating — as many as 60 people. Using counter service will make it easier and faster to serve more customers, said Brown.

"I want this to be a place where people can go and eat every day—not just once a month," Macaraig said. 

Would the new café be able to hire back some of the well-known, longtime ABC employees?

“I am interested in that, but my understanding is somebody is considering buying the ABC name and opening somewhere else and trying to secure all the employees, which I think is cool,” said Brown.

ABC owner Alexis Handelman said she couldn’t comment on a new owner of the ABC name and business.

“It hasn’t happened and it may never happen,” Handelman said in an email.

“We have a lot of respect for Alexis and what she did with that space and we plan to honor that and honor the community’s expectations,” said Brown.

“I wish him luck,” said Handelman about Brown (and Macaraig) taking over the space.

The first step is for Brown to transition from his licensed home baking business to baking at his new location.

Before the pandemic, he’d make around 1,200 bagels a day. Today, he’s making as many as 2,500 bagels, buns, and other loaves and rolls. Brown bakes 16 hours a day, non-stop, he said.

“I’m actually busier, quite a bit, than before the pandemic. But I’m grateful,” he said.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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