By LANCE ARMSTRONG, Valley Community Newspapers writer
It has often been said that the first year in business is always the most challenging and many upstart businesses never survive their first year. But of course, longtime Sacramentan Randy Paragary has no firsthand experience of what it is like to have a business not excel past its first year.
To the contrary, Randy has built a strong legacy in this city as a man who has had four decades of success in the bar and restaurant industry.
And sitting down in one of his successful businesses, Café Bernardo at 2726 Capitol Ave., last week, Randy discussed his long business career in the capital city.
The early years
A 1964 graduate of McClatchy High School, Randy moved to Sacramento during his childhood.
Randy, 63, began attending the fourth grade at Woodlake Elementary School while residing in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom duplex at 424 Baxter Ave. with his parents, Sam and Charmaine Paragary, and his brother, Bruce Paragary.
When he was about 14 years old, Randy moved to South Land Park and began attending California Junior High School and later McClatchy High School.
During his high school years, Randy obtained his first two jobs, the first of which was at Tuolumne County’s Pinecrest Lodge, which was located about 30 miles above Sonora.
Randy said that his work at Pinecrest, where his father was the manager, was a summer job in which he worked as a dishwasher and busboy.
It was also during his time at McClatchy High that Randy was hired as a busboy at Bill Christie’s Elbo Room at 2000 K Street, where Faces nightclub is now located.
Randy said that his time at the Elbo Room proved to be some of his best early training in the restaurant industry.
“I worked there (at the Elbo Room) as a busboy for two years while I was going to high school,” Randy said. “I would get out of school and drive there and do my three or four shifts per week. So, that’s really where I got my first taste of the restaurant business. That was a very happening, very popular restaurant in its day. It had a lot of diners and a good bar scene and I really enjoyed it.”
The Parapow Palace Saloon
At the age of 23, Randy decided to use his experience in the restaurant and bar business to establish his own business.
On Nov. 8, 1969, Randy and his high school friend, Pat Powers, opened the Parapow Palace Saloon at 3000 O St.
Recalling the process of establishing the tavern, Randy said that it was opened for the purpose of filling a void in the local music scene.
“Pat Powers and I were really good friends and like friendship conversations go, he said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to open a bar. There’s no place for us to go to have the music we like to hear.’ The (music) scene was bowling alley types of bars. I said, ‘Well, we can open a place. Shoot, I’ve been a busboy before. I know a little bit about it.’ And Pat said, ‘We can do it.’”
Opting to keep their business simple, as well as lower their establishment’s operating costs, Randy and Pat decided to maintain a beer-only bar.
While searching for a location for their business, it came to Randy and Pat’s attention that the old Ritz Market site at 3000 O St. had become vacant.
After negotiating an arrangement to lease the site, Randy and Pat began the process of preparing their business for its opening.
“We had to go through the whole process of opening a business, beginning with a lease,” Randy said. “We went to Alcohol Beverage Control and applied for a liquor license and went to the IRS and got a federal ID number, so we could have employees and then we got our business license. Then it came time to get a set of plans together, so we could get a building permit to go do the plumbing and wiring. We then approached the beer companies and established credit. It’s exactly the same process that I go through today to open a place. It was a fantastic apprenticeship.”
Randy said that the Parapow Palace, which had a western theme with woodwork from old barns and maintained the Sunlamp Blues Band as its house band, proved to be a success, as it provided a much-needed, local entertainment venue during this era.
“There was such a pent-up demand from our peers – guys, girls our age who were looking for a hippie-type of place to go – that we really filled a void,” Randy said. “The word got out really quickly, so it was super popular.”
No longer associated with the Parapow, which was sold in 1972, Randy attended McGeorge School of Law, where he passed the bar in 1976.
A year earlier, Randy, along with a different business partner Jim Moore, opened an Italian restaurant, called The Arbor, at 2730 N St.
Fitting to its name, the restaurant, which became the Capitol Grille in 1990, featured a redwood, butcher-style interior.
It was also during 1975 that Randy added a building across the street from The Arbor to his business endeavors. Within this building, which is located at 1401 28th St., Randy and Jim opened a bar, known as Lord Beaverbrook.
Today, many locals are familiar with this site, which has been the location of the popular Paragary’s Bar and Oven since 1983.
In 1978, a second Lord Beaverbrook bar was opened at 2384 Fair Oaks Blvd., where Zito’s Italian restaurant opened in 1985 and where the Zinfandel Grille operates today.
From 1980 to 1983, Randy owned Harry’s Bar and Grill at 400 L St., where the 4th Street Grill is presently located.
To some people in the community, it may seem as if Randy opens a new business on an annual basis.
Although this is not the case, such a thought does not lie far from the truth.
Frequently continuing to provide food and beverage establishments in the Sacramento area, Randy opened the aforementioned Café Bernardo midtown location in 1993, Centro Cocina Mexicana at 2730 J St. in 1994, another Café Bernardo location at 234 D St. in Davis in 1995, the Monkey Bar at 2730 Capitol Ave. in 1997 and Esquire Grille at 1213 K St. in 1999.
Continuing to open businesses during this century, Randy opened Spataro Restaurant and Bar at 1415 L St. in 2004, a third Café Bernardo and the R15 Bar in the R Street Corridor area at 15th and R streets in 2007 and Cosmo Café at 1000 K St. in 2008.
Randy, who enjoys snow skiing, water skiing, playing golf and tennis, traveling and increasing his knowledge about food and wines, said that with the economy the way it is today, he has no plans to add other businesses anytime soon.
In the meantime, Randy, who resides in the Sierra Oaks area of the city and has a wife named Stacy and two children, Lisa and Sam, said that he will instead concentrate on improving upon the businesses which he currently owns.
Looking back on his four decades as a business owner in the bar and restaurant industry, Randy said that he is proud of his many accomplishments, which include providing the training grounds for employees who later established their own successful businesses.
“Over the years, there’s really a great list of committed, passionate people who have worked for me who now own their own places – guys like (The Waterboy restaurant owner) Rick Mahan and Patrick Mulvaney, who owns Mulvaney’s (B&L restaurant),” Randy said. “And I can’t leave out Kurt Spataro. He’s the executive chef of all of these restaurants and has great skills in both the cooking and administrative parts of being a chef. But the city is loaded with chefs and general managers who have worked for me who are now either owners of their own places or are in upper level management in Sacramento or other cities.”
Randy, who mentioned that he has been inspired by such people as restaurant owners and chefs Alice Waters and Biba Caggiano and Corti Bros. Italian grocery store co-owner Darrell Corti, said that although 40 years have passed since he opened his first business, he continues to be passionate about his work.
“The never-ending search for cool concepts and menus is the exciting part of it,” Randy said. “That’s what has enabled me to get the inspiration for continued growth. It’s a lot of fun taking a space and converting it into something really exciting.”
And based on his continued success and the support of his businesses’ many loyal customers, Randy should be at the forefront of the local bar and restaurant scene for many more years to come.