From rock ‘n’ roll to brews and bakers: Grass Valley’s Brew Bakers has new owners |

From rock ‘n’ roll to brews and bakers: Grass Valley’s Brew Bakers has new owners

Nancy Solyan has had an interesting year. While serving as production director at the Center for the Arts — just one position she held in her 30-plus years in the music industry — she learned she had cancer.

Facing the unknown, Solyan put her health first and began to re-evaluate her life and its path. She was starting to feel stagnant in the rock ‘n’ roll world — she had a lengthy career with Bill Graham Presents — and took her diagnosis as a sign that maybe it was time to try something else.

Inspiration came to Solyan in a most unexpected way: a friend gave her a card with the Han Solo quote from the Star Wars movies, “Don’t tell me the odds.” Day in and day out, Solyan would see this quote and vow to make the most of her life for herself and for her family.

Fast forward to March of this year. In a serendipitous meeting with Grass Valley Downtown Association’s Marissa Hernandez, Solyan learned the owners of Brew Bakers were looking to sell their business.

The mother-daughter team of Robin Spencer and Britni McKinney were ready to move on after McKinney’s husband was assigned to a years-long stint in Italy as part of his work with the Armed Forces.

The proverbial lightbulb went on over Solyan’s head.

“I’ve been wanting to do something like this,” she said. “I wanted to experience other things. I hate that I got sick to do this.”

Solyan immediately reached out to the previous owners and expressed her interest in purchasing the popular coffee and tea spot. After shadowing them and learning more about the nature of running a business, the mother-daughter team gave Solyan their approval.

Brew Bakers would be hers.

All of the baked goods are made in-house in what Solyan calls a “small batch” bakery. In other words, pastries, scones, muffins and cookies will be made a few at a time. This will cut back on food waste and ensure customers are getting the freshest treats possible. Eventually the cafe will serve savory options like paninis and soups.

Coffee and tea is sourced by Temple, a mostly organic, fair trade roaster that specializes in small batches of its own.

Solyan will offer as many organic options as possible, and already many if not all of the pastries served are made with organic ingredients.

The name of the shop will be altered slightly to reflect the changes: it will now be called Brew Bakers Coffee & Tea House.

Solyan and company are preparing to host their official grand opening in July, when Solyan’s husband Tim will be home from his own rock ‘n’ roll job. Tim is currently touring the world with Roger Waters. Nancy said she just doesn’t feel right about celebrating that milestone without her husband. A photograph of Tim at work hangs on the cafe wall.

“That way he’s kind of here with us,” Solyan said.

The couples’ two daughters will also lend a hand in running the cafe while they are on summer break.

“I just want people to know that it’s a comfortable place to have great coffee,” Solyan said. “It’s family owned and fresh. We care about the community and being part of the community is something I have always strived (for). The Center allowed that, but I felt behind the scenes.”

Instead of talking specifically about her prognosis, Solyan said her attitude is, “I’m fine. I’m great. People ask, ‘are you in remission?’ I don’t know. Remission is years and years down the line. I don’t know what to say about it other than, you’ve gotta live your life.”

With a perspective like that, the odds are looking good.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at or 530-477-4231.

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