Napa’s two Baskin-Robbins ice cream shops have closed unexpectedly, leaving locals with two fewer choices to cool off on a hot summer day. Napa’s Togo’s sandwich cafe, a co-tenant of the Baskin-Robbins on Soscol Avenue, has also been shuttered.

“Business was very, very slow,” said franchise co-owner Amit R. Bhardwaj of ARB Food Inc.

The 2017 wildfires led in part to the decline at his sandwich and ice cream shops, he said. “After that, I can’t get back on track.”

The Bhardwajs and ARB Food Inc. own the solo Napa Baskin-Robbins franchise on Solano Avenue in Redwood Plaza, the combination Napa Baskin-Robbins/Togo’s on Soscol Avenue next to South Napa Marketplace, and a third solo Baskin-Robbins in Sonoma. That Sonoma Baskin-Robbins shop has also closed.

Amit said his wife, Deepty Bhardwaj, was managing all three business locations, but it became too much for her health.

The Bhardwajs live in American Canyon. They owned the franchises for more than three years.

After failing to pay fees as agreed, Baskin-Robbins Franchising sued the couple and their corporation.

The Baskin-Robbins complaint, filed in April, alleges that the Bhardwajs and ARB Food Inc. are in breach of contract for “repeated violations” of their Baskin-Robbins franchise agreements.

The specific amounts due were not noted in the complaint but the amount in dispute is said to exceed $75,000, said the complaint.

ARB Food Inc. and the Bhardwajs have been delinquent since March 18, said the Baskin-Robbins complaint. Attorneys for Baskin-Robbins claim that ARB Food Inc. is insolvent because its debts exceed its liabilities. Those figures were not noted in the complaint.

Amit R. Bhardwaj said employee wage costs were rising, but he could not raise the prices for ice cream enough to compensate. His other business, a trucking company, had been subsidizing the ice cream and sandwich shops but “now it’s too much. I don’t want to lose my trucking business,” he said.

When asked what he wanted to say to his customers, Bhardwaj said, “I’m sorry.”

“I feel bad” to close so suddenly. But the health of his wife comes first, he said.

Bhardwaj said he doesn’t know if either franchise has found a new buyer. He said his attorney will answer the Baskin-Robbins complaint.

A representative from Togo’s corporate office could not be reached this week.

Richard Hoertkorn, a representative of Redwood Plaza, said he could not comment on the Baskin-Robbins lease but he believes that Baskin-Robbins will reopen the Solano Avenue ice cream shop.

“They tell us they have lots of enthusiastic applicants for various locations,” said Hoertkorn.

The solo Napa Baskin-Robbins is at 3373 Solano Ave. The combination Napa Baskin-Robbins/Togo’s is located at 269 Soscol Ave. The Sonoma Baskin-Robbins is located at 201 W. Napa St. in Sonoma.

As of this week, both the Solano Avenue Napa and Sonoma Baskin-Robbins franchises were listed for sale on the Dunkin’ Brands website. Dunkin’ Brands is the parent company of Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts.

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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.