The family who has owned Peninsula breakfast institution Hobee's Restaurant for 43 years sold the business to two longtime employees, the company announced Tuesday.
Hobee's, which Paul Taber first opened in Mountain View in 1974, will now be run by Camille and Daniel Chijate, a couple who have each worked at Hobee's for 28 years. Camille Chijate currently works as vice president and area manager and Daniel Chijate as kitchen manager at Hobee's in Palo Alto.
There are now five Hobee's locations, including at 4224 El Camino Real in Palo Alto.
The Taber family described the new owners as hard-working, dedicated and passionate about service.
"Though it's a bittersweet decision, we are heartened to leave the company in familiar, very capable hands," Paul Taber's children, son Peter Taber, daughter Connie Taber Durant and Edward Fike (Peter's husband) wrote in an announcement. "There is no better choice to carry on the Hobee's legacy."
They said their late father founded Hobee's at a small site in Mountain View — a former Dairy Belle franchise — with one goal in mind: "to make friends."
"With his sly sense of humor, Paul Taber indeed made many friends," the family wrote. "In the process, he also created one of Silicon Valley's earliest and most enduring success stories."
Paul Taber initially served sandwiches and fast-food items from the Mountain View location, according to a history posted on Hobee's website. He soon expanded to an insurance office next door and built a "modest" dining room with only nine tables.
The original restaurant "consistently lost money, severely testing the Tabers' resolve," the website states. The family sold their van at one point to make payroll. But a healthy eating craze in the mid-1970s and Hobee's community-minded service soon led to widespread success, according to the company. Hobee's now serves sandwiches, salads, tacos, pasta, burgers, smoothies and has a separate gluten-free menu.
The announcement notes the awards Hobee's has garnered over the years, including "best breakfast" in the Palo Alto Weekly's Best Of competition.
Hobee's, known for its ample breakfasts and signature hunks of blueberry coffee cake with a dollop of melting butter on top, can today be found in Belmont, San Jose and Sunnyvale in addition to Palo Alto. A location at the Town & Country Village in Palo Alto closed in 2013. A Los Gatos Hobee's also closed that year and a Campbell location followed in 2014. (A remaining outpost in Cupertino is an independently owned franchise.)
In an email to the Weekly, Camille Chijate said she is planning some changes for Hobee's, including continuing a trend toward purchasing locally by featuring local produce, dairy and craft beers. She and her husband will keep "tried and true" menu favorites but also add customer "'wish list' items" like grain bowls, cold brew coffee and organic and natural products when possible.
The Chijates also plan to update the restaurants' dining rooms while still "maintaining our homey, funky vibe," Camille said.
Camille, who is personally interested in the environment, said she also aims "to go more green in our operations, with resources, packaging and day to day habits."
Hobee's has always been a "family affair," the Tabers wrote in their Tuesday announcement. Matriarch Mary Taber "cheerfully" processed Hobee's payroll until she was 82 years old, when she retired and moved to Honolulu -- where she had met Paul Taber -- before her death in 2014. Paul Taber died at the age of 72 in 1998.
Connie Taber Durant focused on customer service and developed a training program for employees while Peter served as the company's "chief architect for expansion" and also developed many Hobee's recipes, including the coffee cake, the family said. Fike, an attorney, took over as CEO from Peter Taber in 2005 and "skillfully navigated the company through the economic ups and downs of the new millennium."
As Hobee's enters a new era of ownership, the Tabers are "thrilled to be keeping Hobee's in the family!" Fike wrote in an email announcing the sale.