It was 5:30 on a mid-May Tuesday morning and Kelsey Drayton was already at work helping unload and put away a large order of supplies for his Brandy’s Restaurant & Bakery on East Cedar Avenue.
The order included crates of eggs and boxes of milk, oranges and potatoes. The big delivery of eggs was especially critical as the 20-year-old restaurant is famous for its egg offerings at breakfast.
“We’re known for our exceptional eggs,” said Drayton, who has worked at the restaurant in two stints, for a total of 12 years. “We have 11 different variations on Eggs Benedict.”
The menu for lunch is equally diverse and draws folks back again and again for the dynamite Reuben sandwiches with homemade rye bread and Russian dressing.
“There’s a little something for everyone,” Kelsey said. “There are vegetarian options, gluten-free options and various meats. We’re slicing potatoes back there and doing everything from scratch.”
LONGTIME OWNERS HAVE RETIRED
With whisk and spatula at the ready, Drayton will now be charged with making sure all egg dishes, as well as other items on the extensive menu, are prepared to perfection.
He and his wife, Jamie Drayton, just assumed ownership of Brandy’s from longtime owners Brandy and Ed Wojciak, who have retired from a 38-plus year career in the restaurant industry.
The Draytons’ first day at the helm was Monday, April 28, with Kelsey operating the restaurant as owner and continuing in his role as general manager, supervising 22 employees and overseeing day-to-day maintenance.
Jamie, who has already been drafting company descriptions for Brandy promotions, will be at her husband’s side greeting guests, creating a marketing plan for the restaurant and keeping track of finances.
The transfer of ownership has gone smoothly, facilitated by the fact that the Draytons have become close friends through the years, beginning when Kelsey grew up with the Wojciaks’ two sons, Ben and Bret.
“It’s just like a perfect fit,” Ed said “I don’t think we could find better people. This is like turning it over to a member of the family. It’s kind of a small miracle.”
PROVEN RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Success at Brandy’s was no accident.
It has come from a special recipe that includes a mix of a loving marriage, a reputation for good food, delicious baked goods, friendly staff, very loyal customers and dedication to the community and the local arts scene.
The Wojciak’s restaurant career began in 1976 when they opened La Bellavia, their first restaurant, on South Beaver Street. At the time, only about 17,000 people lived in Flagstaff.
In 1993, they opened their second restaurant, Brandy’s. In 2005, they sold La Bellavia to concentrate full time on their Brandy’s location, which grew to become a popular Flagstaff eatery for locals and visitors alike.
Accolades, for Brandy’s include being voted Best of Flagstaff for Breakfast & Lunch by Arizona Daily Sun readers 16 times.
For the past two years, the restaurant has been awarded “Best Breakfast in Flagstaff” by LocalEats.com. This year, Brandy’s won the Viola Award in the category of Business for the Arts.
PLANS LONG TIME IN THE MAKING
Plans for selling the restaurant to the Draytons began 3 1/2 years ago, beginning with discussions while the younger couple was living in Los Angeles pursuing corporate careers.
They had moved there after graduation from NAU in 2004, but still dreamed of returning to Arizona where Kelsey’s family lives in Flagstaff and Jamie’s in Mesa. We were doing well in our corporate jobs,” Kelsey said. “We were moving up the ladder, but we wanted to be closer to family.”
This closeness to relatives includes making sure their young daughter Evelyn can see more of her extended family.
Looking back, Kelsey’s association with Brandy’s started at age 15 when he came onboard as a dishwasher, before promotion to a counter position, then baker and server. This work paid his way through NAU, where he and Jamie met when they were music students.
The transition completed, the Wojciaks are enjoying retirement, which has included a vacation in Tucson to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. But some of the 20-year habits have been a bit difficult to break.
“It’s going to be really weird to not come down here and make the decisions we have to make every day,” Ed said. “We’re going to clear our brains and take a break.”
WANTING A WARM EXCHANGE
The Draytons said they have no plans for immediate changes at Brandy’s.
They will also continue with the year-round art exhibits that have delighted the public for years.
“We want to keep the legacy alive,” said Jamie, who noted their first two weeks as owners were packed with guests celebrating special events like NAU graduation and Mother’s Day.
Reaction from customers to the change has been generally positive, Kelsey said.
“All our regulars seem genuinely exited, especially the artists like Amy Horn or and Mike Frankel,” he said. “I made point of being in contact with them.”
The Wojciaks said they have been honored to have the restaurant in “this amazing community for 20 years,” and they are hoping the Draytons continue it for the next 20.
“We want this whole thing to be a warm exchange,” said Brandy, whose restaurant will continue to bear her name. “They’re part of the family.”
Betsey Bruner is a freelance journalist and photographer in Flagstaff. She has previously done photographic work for Brandy’s. Reach her at email@example.com.