Nevada City’s Friar Tuck’s selling to a new — but familiar — buyer | TheUnion.com

Nevada City’s Friar Tuck’s selling to a new — but familiar — buyer

Sam Corey
Staff Writer
Employees at Friar Tuck's gather around Christmas for a photo.
Photo submtted by Carissa Cooke

When most kids were returning home from school, Carissa Cook was going to her parent’s restaurant.

Carissa, now a manager at the same establishment, recalls doing homework and playing hide-and-go-seek under the tables while her parents, the owners of Friar Tuck’s, tasted wine with brokers and prepared for the evening rush.

Today, having grown up, gone to college, worked other jobs, and returned to manage her second home, Carissa and her mom, Rona, are selling the family business. Forty-six years after Greg Cook opened its doors for the first time, the family found an interested buyer who intimately knows the restaurant, its patrons and employees.

The Paige family, Carissa and Rona believe, will be able to maintain Friar Tuck’s integrity, which is still a place for people to drink wine and listen to music, as Greg had intended.

“The original idea was that my dad wanted to open a wine bar,” said Carissa Cook. “Wine and live music were really important to him.”

The dimly lit restaurant, with its mahogany bar, many booths and few rooms, has expanded since the early days. When the restaurant opened its doors in the ’70s, it was heated by a wood fire. At that time, when Rona was 24, she would chop wood, heap it onto a fire, and set the needle for their record player.

“We had a little tiny fireplace, and I use to have to chop wood before we opened,” said Rona. “And we had a turntable with records to play for the music.”

The restaurant originally had five employees, included one room, and paid rent at $300 per month. Today, the rent is much higher, and the restaurant employs about 35 people. Still, while much of the employees and infrastructure has expanded, the tenor has remained the same. Even many of the same people stick around for years.

“The three main guys in the kitchen have all been with us an average of 15 to 20 years,” said Carissa.

Lifelong Employees, Relationships

And many of those employees maintained longstanding friendships, even fell in love.

“We had two employees who met here who just got engaged a couple weeks ago,” said Carissa.

That phenomenon is not so coincidental, according to Rona and Carissa, as they recall all of the people who have been united by love under Friar Tuck’s roof. If nothing else, the restaurant has a habit of retaining its employees.

Even the future owner, Chad Paige, has been with the restaurant for four years, and whose parents are fond of Rona and Carissa. The two still plan to return occasionally, and help out the Paige family when they are in need of assistance.

“They’ll be able to call and say, ‘What about this? What about that?’” said Rona.

Shortly after the official sale, Carissa will stick around, helping with the transition and buying wine for the restaurant. Rona, for her part, will be retiring, and traveling around the country and the world, to Europe and Tahiti.

The Cook family has been looking to sell the business since Greg Cook’s death in 2017. However, they didn’t want to give their lifelong restaurant to someone who didn’t embody the ideals of Friar Tuck’s.

“We wanted to turn it over to the right people,” said Rona. “However long it takes, but we wanted to turn it over to the right people.”

The Cook family first suggested that Chad Paige take over casually. Then, the more everyone thought about it, the more it seemed like he was the perfect fit, having worked in the restaurant, and become fully immersed in the culture. Now, the Cook’s know that although many things have changed over the years, much more will remain as it has been.

“It’ll still have the same feeling,” said Rona. “It’ll have a lot of the same employees, the same feel, the same heart.”

You can contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or by email at scorey@theunion.com.


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