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Winemaker Joel Gott Purchases Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen With Big Plans for St. Helena

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Including a convenience mart called The Station

Future home of The Station
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On the eve of Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen’s last night of service comes news of the restaurant’s new owner: winemaker and restaurateur Joel Gott.

Gott, a resident of Saint Helena, plans to use Cindy’s kitchen as a support system for Gott’s Roadside restaurants, as well as the commissary kitchen for a new venture called The Station, which he’ll open this fall in the long unused retail portion of Napa Valley Petroleum (1153 Main Street).

“I live in town and I love Model Bakery and all the shops there,” says Gott. “But, there’s a gap in the middle for a little convenience store with the kind of food I want in it.” That style of food will include sandwiches and grab-and-go items made from scratch down the street, where they’ll bake their own bread for sandwiches. The kitchen, which is large for the space, will also allow Gott’s Roadside to expand its dessert offerings beyond just ice cream — an operational challenge as the chain’s restaurants are set up as quick-service grills with no room for a pastry section.

The decision to purchase Cindy’s happened fast, says Gott, after shared friends of chef-owner Cindy Pawlcyn realized that there might be a mutually beneficial opportunity to buy and sell. When the news of the sale and closure was announced in June, Pawlcyn wouldn’t name the buyer, but said “I guess you could say he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – in a good way,” and that the restaurant would be “in good hands.” She would know: Gott worked for her when he was sixteen years old, and they’ve known each other for years.

As for reinstating Cindy’s space as a restaurant, Gott says they’re still working on that. “At this point, we’re focused on retrofitting the kitchen for what we need, then we’ll work on what to do with the rest of the space,” says Gott. “We might do a restaurant, but I don’t want to compete with anybody’s business [in St. Helena].”

The lease for the retail space at Napa Valley Petroleum was signed a year ago, though permitting has taken longer than Gott and his team expected. When it opens — possibly in September — there’ll be a dry goods section, plus an area to fill up water bottles, and treats like novelty ice cream from Three Twins. And, there will still be gas — the Station will only occupy the convenience mart.

It will likely be a welcome addition to a small town with a dearth of casual dining options (though Sunshine Market and Giugni’s aren’t going anywhere, either).

“Honestly our biggest hope with the space is that we can justify having it with the support systems and then figure out something cool to do there,” says Gott. “I loved Cindy’s. I’m a big fan of hers and for me it’s cool to have one of her toys to call our own... so the pressure is now on us to do something great.”

Stay tuned for more details on Cindy’s, and The Station, as they become available.