Some former customers of the Centrally Grown market/restaurant in Cambria — and others who say they would like to have gone there — have been disappointed to find that the rambling, multimillion-dollar facility is closed to the general public, at least for now.
During much of January, a sawhorse-mounted sign posted in the driveway leading to the hilltop, ocean-view site said the facility was “closed until Jan. 21 for expansion and annual staff training & quality assurance.” Also mentioned was a planned Super Bowl party and a spring festival.
That echoes various assertions that were, as of Tuesday, Feb. 9, still on the event page of the business website, centrallygrown.com.
But Jan. 21 has come and gone, and no reopening activities have been evident.
The business is evolving away from its initial restaurant-bar-and-market concept, owner Dave Robertson said in phone interviews Tuesday, Feb. 2 and Friday, Feb. 5. Until Robertson’s new concept for the Cambria facility comes together, he said, it will only be open for special events and private gatherings.
Robertson said he’d like to reopen Centrally Grown to the public sometime in the future, but wasn’t sure when or if that might happen.
In a mid-December interview, he had signaled a direction change for the “concept space,” following a substantial top-down turnover of employees, some of whom had walked off the job rather suddenly, en masse.
The Centrally Grown phone number “is temporarily unavailable,” according to the message a caller hears. Robertson advised that people interested in booking a special event or who have other questions should contact him via the business website, which lists an email address of email@example.com.
According to social-network postings, some people who might want to chat include a bride who paid a $2,500 deposit for a June wedding at Centrally Grown, and some vendors who had consigned their art and crafts for sale there.
Robertson said he’s trying to verify the claims of the vendors, but he maintains that some of the related files about the consigned works have disappeared.
Something else that has occupied a lot of Robertson’s time lately, he said, has been directing detailed investigations into legal issues involving some previous employees.
Some of them say they still haven’t been paid, according Shannon Sutherland, who is among those who used to work at Centrally Grown. She said some former employees have filed various complaints with the state labor board and are waiting for a hearing date.
Even though Sutherland’s no longer employed by Robertson, she said she still spends “a big chunk of every day trying to get artists paid. It really upsets me, because they (their artworks) were on consignment” at Centrally Grown.
The next steps
Robertson said, “We’re looking for the right purveyors to take (into) the next phase for the expansion” of Centrally Grown. He indicated Feb. 5 that he may be close to signing some of the leases for space within the facility. “We’re trying to find the right brands, if you will, and subtenants to share the space, to have a more dynamic experience. We’re looking for the best-in-class for products and services, with a proven track record for being great operators at what they do.”
The Centrally Grown business model has been evolving from the get go. For years, the main building at 7432 Exotic Garden Drive had been a restaurant, bar and venue for regularly scheduled jazz concerts that often sold out.
In 2012, Robertson bought the ocean-view property adjacent to Highway 1 for $2.475 million. Remodeling the facility into Centrally Grown took years, with various elements of the business (market, outdoor facilities, deli, bar and restaurant) launching at different times last year. Changes also happened, off and on.
The Centrally Grown website mentions another enterprise that’s been occupying a lot of Robertson’s time lately: A Centrally Grown operation in Hollywood Hills. “The market will have almost 7,000 square feet of gourmet offerings,” the notice said, and the plan is to open it during the first quarter of this year. “Please inquire about event spaces for filming, weddings, corporate events, etc.”
Robertson said Feb. 2 he’s excited about the new Mulholland Drive/Beverly Glen location, which he estimated might be open in “the next couple of months.”
Other locations could be on the drawing board, he hinted. “A third location is imminent.”
Kathe Tanner: 805-927-4140