How this Napa entrepreneur is piloting 2 restaurants through the pandemic


Sometimes living in the present isn’t all it’s meant to be, especially if you’re a restaurateur trying to keep your business alive in a pandemic.

Just ask Chuck Meyer, a native of the Bay Area and owner of two businesses in downtown Napa.

“I spend more time thinking about the future than what is happening now. We know what we are supposed to do today. What are we going to do tomorrow? Says Meyer, who is married to his wife, Carly, and has two young sons. “It drives a lot of people around me crazy.”

Six years ago, Meyer, 49, opened Napa Palisades Saloon, a gastropub that offers more than 30 local house and craft beers on tap, as well as a full bar with cocktails and wines.

On March 16, 2020, Meyer was scheduled to launch First and Franklin Marketplace, a delicatessen and gift shop. As it turned out, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The state was locked down that day due to the coronavirus pandemic. First and Franklin opened on June 15, shortly after Napa County allowed restaurants to resume food service.

Work to stay afloat

Due to multiple closings over the past year, business has been tough, to say the least. Meyer said he left 2020 with a loss of income of $ 1.5 million at the Napa Palisades Saloon. First and Franklin Marketplace had not been open long enough to fully assess revenue, he said.

The catering portion of First and Franklin survived on take-out, but the gift shop struggled as it catered to tourists, of which there aren’t many these days.

“The tourists we have come from the local towns,” Meyer said. “A lot of these people don’t really have a ‘Napa Valley’ T-shirt.”

To help pay the rent, Meyer said he sublet part of the market to a local roaster and a donut company.

Meanwhile, Napa Palisades is restarting as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

“We certainly didn’t make up for all of these lost income, but we were able to stay alive,” Meyer said. “We have made many agreements with our landlord and, personally, with our mortgage. So we were able to sort of put a lot of stuff on hold to get ready to go back to business and start paying all the bills again. “

Meyer was able to secure two Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling $ 500,000. Most of it went to the payroll.

“We were really able to keep the core team together and keep them alive, even when we weren’t that busy,” Meyer said. It currently has around 24 employees, about five fewer than at the start of last year.

“As evidenced by the pandemic, it is first and foremost an employee-first operator,” said David Blumenfeld, longtime friend and co-founder of NextRivet LLC, a consultancy that helps bring digital technologies to retailers and businesses. restaurants. “And really, to his financial detriment, he kept (all) his employees as long as he could.

Meyer signed a contract with San Francisco-based NextRivet last year to build the online ordering platform for its two locations, as well as to build the First and Franklin website, Blumenfeld said. NextRivet also took over marketing, including social media, for both companies.

Find your way

Meyer found his professional calling in Los Angeles while studying at UCLA, where he graduated in 1994 with a degree in political science and business.

“I always thought (and of course my parents told me) that eventually I should ‘find a real job’. I tried so many times to do it, but they never got stuck, ”Meyer said. “Eventually I decided that I was going to try and embark on restaurant business as a career, so I took my first managerial job. I got the job of managing director in less than three months and never looked back.

Meyer continued to advance in the restaurant industry and in 2015 he became an entrepreneur when he launched Napa Palisades Saloon, with an investment of approximately $ 250,000.

“I pulled all the favors I could to make it a workable figure,” Meyer said, including the money he had from some investments and credit cards. “I mean, it was just a bootstrap all-around thing.”

There was also a bit of luck in the mix.

One day in 2015, while visiting a chef friend in San Francisco, Meyer noticed a sign at the nearby Marriott indicating that auditions were being held for the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Game show.

“And so on a whim I went over there,” he said. “I ended up getting a place in the series and I got to the second round. I won about $ 50,000. “

Help create fun

“I think when you first meet Chuck he turns out to have a very easy going and relaxed style, and that’s really who he is as a person,” Blumenfeld said. “But he’s also very business-oriented and very entrepreneurial in his thinking.”

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