Longtime Sonoma restaurateur Bob Rice is breaking away from the Breakaway Café – after 22 years he’s selling the renowned local eatery to the owners of the Sunflower Caffé.
Sunflower owners James Hahn and Mila Chanamé will officially take hold of the Breakaway spatulas on Monday, Jan. 23. The sale price was not disclosed.
“This is something we’ve been discussing with Bob for almost three years now,” said Hahn. “We want to keep what has made it successful and improve wherever else possible. Breakaway has a fantastic staff, a wonderful local following and that’s what we are investing in.”
Hahn said longtime Sunflower employees Aaron Mills and Melissa Cameron will become partners in the Breakaway Café, Sunflower Caffé and Chanamé wines. According to Hahn, Cameron started at the Sunflower as a 15-year-old dishwasher, has been manager at the Sunflower for several years, and will soon graduate from Sonoma State University with a degree in business. Mills is a Los Angeles movie industry veteran who brings special skills in practical management, says Hahn.
With a 40-year history in the restaurant business, Rice says he looks forward to a little freedom. Having already opened Mama’s Royal Café and the Glen Ellen Inn, Rice took over the original Breakaway Café from Jenny Bushnell in 1994, then located where the Creekside Café is now, and moved the Breakaway to its current location – the site of a former Lyon’s restaurant in the Maxwell Village Shopping Center.
In a press release about the sale, Rice called the Sunflower Caffé ownership “the perfect match” for the Breakaway.
“After over 20 years of working with the same people at the Breakaway, they became like family,” said Rice. “I wanted to make sure that whoever took over would treat them the same way.”
In an email to the Index-Tribune, Rice described his feelings as “a tsunami of emotions.”
“A big concern was for both my staff and customers but I feel confident that I have found a buyer who will value them as highly as I do,” said Rice. “I’ve been privileged to serve a very supportive community and to work side by side with a staff that impressed me every single day with their devotion, professional talent and kindness. This has made my life fuller and richer than I could have ever imagined but now seems like the right time for this change.”