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KINGSBURG – Andy Staggs and Adolfo "Duke" Valenzuela are teaming up to open Twisted Café in downtown Kingsburg.

The duo is leasing the 1,300 square feet of the former Kingsburg Barber Shop location that is currently under renovation in the former Ostrom Building on the 1300 block of Draper Street.

Staggs is the executive chef and Valenzuela is her business partner.

They did not grow up in the Central San Joaquin Valley, but their goal of owning and operating their own business has led them to downtown Draper.

This will be the first time Valenzuela has owned a business, but Staggs has been working in the food industry since her teen years. She started at a McDonald’s in high school and has worked at restaurants with Vietnamese, French, Hawaiian and American cuisine since then. After a stint in a 9-to-5 job, she had to return, she said.

“I went back to school and worked my way up to executive chief and director of operations.”

Staggs grew up mostly in Texas but as her family was in the military, she’s also lived in Holland and then in Las Vegas as an adult for more than two decades.

Valenzuela grew up in Sanger and has fond memories of Kingsburg from visits to the Swedish Village during his youth. Now, as a stage hand for Rhino Staging, he’s crisscrosses the Western United States setting up for concerts and festivals.

Staggs hired Valenzuela at one point as a server for one of the restaurants where she worked. Over time, they’re relationship blossomed and the two started thinking of what life would be like if they could run their own eatery.

“I’ve always wanted to do my own thing and have more control over it than working for other people,” Staggs said.

Valenzuela said making that dream come true is part of his life now.

“She has wanted to do this for as long as I’ve known her so I said, ‘show me the logo, the menu and a business plan.’ I decided let’s do this and make it happen so this is the culmination of all those things,” he said. “Also, being part of the revitalization of downtown Kingsburg is very exciting.”

Stagg said her grandfather was also a chef and thus the restaurant industry was always a part of their family. After looking into the prospect of setting up in Las Vegas, they realized they preferred the feel of a small town instead.

“We’re both from small towns and love that feel of a traditional downtown. So when this became an opportunity, there was no competing with this. In Vegas, we would have been in a strip mall and the feel of it was just gone. This is absolutely what we wanted,” she said.

The couple has moved to Kingsburg now and their construction contractor is awaiting approval from the health department to move forward with work.

The building where they’re located is now owned by local developer CJ Brock and his sister and brother-in-law, Kjirsten Harpain and Jeff Harpain. The Harpains are developing the Apotek Lofts on the second story. Downstairs, other businesses such as Lisa’s Mane Attraction, Gypsy’s Attic and Revival 23 have already moved into their spots.

Approval from the health department to move forward with remodeling is expecting at the beginning of August. From there, it could be a matter of only a month to finish the renovation.

“The build is definitely a process you have to have some patience for,” Staggs said as city permits must first get approval and Americans with Disabilities Acts requirements must be taken into consideration.

“It’s with the health department right. We should hear by the first to have that approval. Then, they’ll put our kitchen and service counter in, do the flooring, paint and finish up these two bathrooms and we’ll be good to go.”

They’ll train between five to 10 employees and have a soft opening thereafter. The café will seat 40 people and will feature seating in front and lunch counter toward the back. Plans include some outside seating on a small back patio and a few tables in front.

The menu includes breakfast, lunch, desserts and coffee items. A dinner menu will be added later. Their hours will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and they’ll be open seven days a week.

Staggs said since she grew up in Texas, she loves comfort foods, but she also prefers to serve healthier dishes. So she’s taken traditional dishes and added unusual or new ingredients.

“I’m taking those comfort foods and making them healthy so people can enjoy them but not feel like they’re going to be in a food coma.”

Since the phrase "fusion" has been overused, Staggs said they opted to use "twisted’ in their title to describe the menu.

“We’re taking all those different flavors and putting them together. We’re allowing for sweet and savory and different textures in the food and using a few unusual ingredients. That’s the big premise in the menu. That, plus there’s the healthy aspect. We won’t have a deep fryer [instead] it’s an air-fried method we’ll use for the ‘fried’ foods.”

As far as the atmosphere, Staggs is planning for it to be modern yet comfortable. Since it will be a café Wi-Fi customers will be able to stay if they’d like to linger but they’ll have more than just snack foods to choose from, she said.

“This will be a European style café so people can have a great meal and a great coffee in a more relaxed environment. There are several items on the menu you really won’t find anywhere else that are very specific to my background and what I’ve had success with. It’s something we’re excited to bring.”

Breakfast items include a yogurt parfait, baked oatmeal, Belgian waffles, fruit toast and loaded biscuits and gravy. Lunch options include boxed combos, healthy sandwiches and wraps and salads. Also available will be cakes, desserts and breakfast pastries. They’ve made sure to include some items with a Swedish flair on the menu – a healthier version of the Swedish meatball and a sweet, sticky chocolate cake known as kladdkaka.

They’re also incorporating some of the original woodwork from the space and will keep the black-and-white flooring from the barbershop.

“There’s a lot of history in this building and we wanted to keep some of that,” Staggs said of the wooden doors that will be reworked to serve as table tops.

Valenzuela will let Staggs take the lead on the cafe while he looks into developing a pet project of his own.

“To start off, we’ll both be here but this is her dream,” he said. “I have ideas for other businesses as well. I’ve always been interested in automotive sales and mechanic side of work so I’m planning to go that route.”

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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