Current owners hope to sell to folks who aim to continue The Parish’s legacy of fresh southern food
Despite ongoing plans to sell The Parish Café, the restaurant will not be permanently closing and will reopen when COVID-19 health regulations once again allow outdoor dining.
To those worried that they’ll lose their little slice of Louisiana, don’t fret.
Owners Rob and Karla Lippincott say they hope to sell the brand and the business to someone locally who wants to continue the eatery’s mission of offering scrumptious southern comfort food.
And while many restaurants have been forced to sell or close their business due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Karla says they are freely choosing to sell and move to Tennessee where they can provide more opportunities for their children, and where the cost of living and wildfire threat is much lower than in fire and COVID-ravaged California.
“We left this year for the Walbridge Fire and after the Kincade Fire I had told him (Rob), ‘Are we going to do this every year?’” Karla said, with Rob pointing out that the Walbridge Fire had been their third evacuation. “So the Walbridge Fire is what prompted us to get the wheels turning and maybe think about moving, so we discussed Tennessee and heading back to the south.”
Karla said the onslaught of the COVID pandemic was the last push that led to their decision to move back south and start a new adventure.
Plus, “We live in one of the most expensive areas and it makes it really hard to get ahead,” Karla added.
Rob said he thinks his kids will have more of an opportunity to thrive in Tennessee.
“My family is my first priority and whatever is going to be best for them is what we’re going to do,” Rob said.
While Rob and Karla still want to work with food, they’re not sure whether they’ll start a full-service restaurant in Tennessee.
“We’re looking at a less labor intensive model and one that requires less people to put out the product,” Rob said.
Karla said they discussed the possibility of having several different beignet coffee shops.
In terms of the details of the Parish sale, Rob said the Santa Rosa location will be an asset-only sale while the Healdsburg location will be a complete sale of the business and the brand.
“The Santa Rosa location is what’s called an asset-only sale. The buyer there is only getting the fixtures, the furniture and the equipment, they’re essentially buying a lease and a location. The brand and any of the intellectuals based on that are not attached to that sale. It is in escrow, but it is not done until it’s done,” Rob said. “With the Healdsburg location, what we are selling is the business and the brand as well as the lease and the location. As it’s advertised, the sale comes with everything you see, plus the recipes, the trademark and essentially the training that they’ll require to turn it over.”
The Lippincotts are excited to see what this new chapter of life will bring, but leaving Healdsburg and The Parish is still a bit bittersweet.
“We love the brand, it is our baby we built it — we started in the vets building parking lot in 2009 — literally from scratch and so it is painful,” Rob said.
Rob said they are grateful that they’ve been open for eight years, noting that most restaurants can’t say that two years later, let alone eight.
“We were also highly profitable, our numbers grew exponentially from the time we opened and year on year we continued to develop. I don’t think we went backwards a single year,” Rob said.
Karla said some of her fondest memories at the Parish have been working alongside great employees who now feel like extended, second family.
Rob said he’s proud that the Parish team was and has been able to bring Louisiana into Healdsburg.
“We accomplished that and I think that’s the mark that I’m proud to have left,” Rob said.
Once The Parish reopens Karla said they’ll likely go back to only serving the lunch menu instead of offering both lunch and breakfast, which is what they first offered before the pandemic.
“People don’t realize how labor intensive a restaurant is and putting out hot fresh food from scratch, it takes a lot of hands and a lot of work,” Rob said.
He said when they were doing the counter service take-out model during the initial few months of COVID they weren’t able to pay themselves but they were able to keep at least four or five folks employed.
“Once they allow outdoor dining we will reopen under that same model but we hope that a new owner will be in the picture within the next few months, that’s our ambition,” Rob explained. “We want the Parish to live on, and it chokes me up to think about what a great era it was and I hope that that can continue.”
The couple, who speak lovingly and proudly of their restaurant, said they are hopeful the restaurant business will come back strong after the pandemic, especially with the Montage Hotel and Mill District coming online with the prospect of welcoming more tourists.
As a message to their customers, Karla said, “Hang in there, we are coming back and our hope is that new owners will keep it going.”