News

Kitchen's closed at Coco's

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

Coco's Bakery Restaurant, a longtime part of Federal Way's dining-out scene, was closed unexpectedly last Sunday by its California-based owner, which apparently is severing business ties in Washington.

The Coco's here and two others are franchises owned by EDCCA Foods in Orange County, Calif. The company couldn't be reached for comment, but the closures were confirmed by a vice president of the Coco's chain of restaurants and by employees of the Federal Way eatery, who said they received no advance notice.

Tim Pickwell, senior vice president of Coco's, said the decision to close the restaurants was made by franchisee Eric Chung of EDCCA based on Chung's "personal financial reasons."

Pickwell said Coco's is disappointed for the customers and employees of the closed restaurants. But he said the three locations, which had been franchised for about the last six years, wouldn't revert to company ownership.

"We're not in a position to take over and run them," he said.

Michelle May, an assistant manager and server at the Federal Way Coco's, said she finished her shift Jan. 7 and two days later was in the middle of her weekend off when she learned by telephone that the restaurant was closing "for good" and that she and the 20 to 30 other employees, including her daughter, no longer had jobs. No explanation was given, May said.

The news "blew me away," she said, adding business was good and there were no indications of any other possible reasons for closing.

In addition to the Federal Way location near a Pacific Highway South entrance to the Ross Plaza shopping center, Coco's restaurants in Redmond and Olympia –– the only other ones in Washington –– also are closing.

The restaurants served breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also baked dessert and bread items.

Pickwell said Chung began "warning" Coco's in late-December that closures were possible.

Chung/EDCCA operates non-Coco's restaurants in other states, according to Pickwell. Their business status wasn't known this week.

There were as many as five Coco's locations in Washington as recently as 2001, the year they dropped out as members of the Washington Restaurant Association, said Gene Vosberg, president of the Olympia-based industry group.

It's believed that Coco's operated in Federal Way for about 25 years. The closure creates a void in the city's dining choices, May said.

"It breaks my heart. In my opinion, there aren't a lot of good, quality restaurants in Federal Way, but this was one. The customers always told me they liked our food and our service," said May, who worked there eight years.

She and manager Doug Koehle were at the restaurant Wednesday to help clean it and deal with other final details.

May wasn't sure about the plans of her former co-workers, but she said she might take some college courses and start a new career.

In addition to Coco's, two other national or regional businesses –– both clothing retailers –– have pulled out of Federal Way this month. The Gap didn't renew its lease at The Commons at Federal Way, and an Oshkosh B'Gosh store at Ross Plaza closed.

According to a Web site for Coco's Bakery Restaurant –– the company, not franchises –– the first Coco's originated in 1948 in Corona del Mar, Calif. as The Snack Shop. Shortly after, it changed its name to Coco's and grew at one point to about 500 restaurants in the western U.S. and Japan, South Korea and United Arab Emirates. There now are 185 company-owned restaurants, all in the U.S., that are called Coco's or Carrows; the latter is a sister chain. In Japan, 300 Coco's are now owned by a Japanese company that bought the right to use the Coco's name.

Coco's has gone through five ownership changes. One former owner is the same organization that runs Denny's restaurants.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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