New co-owner Bob LaRue must not have been around the day the Marie Callender's restaurant at 3801 California Ave. closed two months ago for what everyone thought was the last time.
Worried Bakersfield has since forgotten about the place, LaRue and business partner Dave McDonough have asked employees to park in front of the building Wednesday just so passers-by don't think it's still empty. They also want a banner posted out front that says "Pie sale."
General Manager Joel Lopez does not share his new bosses' worries. He remembers how busy things were the last weekend of business, in mid-August, when the restaurant had no lack of customers and actually ran out of pie.
"We're expecting it to be busy," he said Tuesday.
The former Marie Callender’s on Oswell Street is still gone but the one next to Barnes & Noble is back in business starting Wednesday. And it looks mostly the same inside — for now.
LaRue, who together with McDonough bought the restaurant as a franchise after the chain was recently sold out of bankruptcy, said the original idea was to perform the site's first major renovations since the late 1970s.
But with the holidays coming, and a pie sale going on at all Marie Callender's locations, they decided to postpone the renovations until January.
Menu changes are coming too, but perhaps not so soon. The chain, now owned by a Los Angeles-area company called Elite Restaurant Group, plans to add new items catering to new and younger tastes.
LaRue emphasized the changes won't be drastic and diners will still be able to order the kind of comfort food Marie Callender's is known for.
"The chicken pot pie and chicken dishes, the ones that were always the favorites, none of that's going to change," said LaRue, who with McDonough also owns a Marie Callender's franchise in Azusa, among other restaurant holdings.
If the staff at the California Avenue restaurant seems familiar, it's because LaRue and McDonough were able to hire back many of the restaurant's former workers.
At least 39 of 44 employees there now worked at the restaurant when it was owned by the chain. Some of the rehires worked at the Marie Callender's at 2631 Oswell St., some at the one on California Avenue.
"We got almost all of our employees back," Lopez said. "They must have really enjoyed working for us."