Modesto vegan cafe built a loyal following but closed abruptly. Here’s why, what’s to come

As one of the first new restaurants to open in downtown Modesto after the onset of the pandemic, The Farmacy and its customers were off to a strong start right away.

The all-vegan, vegan cafe was another venture of 10th Street entrepreneur Erin Doran, who also owns The Century wedding/special events venue, Nine3One coworking space, and flower shop/bar. Rosé Bouquet along the same block.

But now, three years after its successful launch, the cafe has abruptly closed. Earlier this week, Doran posted notices on the restaurant’s website and social media sites saying it was closing immediately due to “circumstances beyond our control”.

Owner Erin Doran at Farmacy, a new plant-based restaurant, in Modesto, Calif. on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

The restaurant opened two months after the start of the pandemic in May 2020 with a pop-up concept. The café then moved into its own storefront, nestled between Casa Maestros and Trevino’s Barber Shop, replacing an old Cinnamon Bakery. The cafe had a colorful and inventive menu filled with all-vegan and plant-based food and drinks.

But Doran said that despite the cafe’s many fans and loyal clientele, The Farmacy struggled to find vegan chefs. The restaurant had limited hours, only open 9am-3pm Wednesday-Friday and 10am-2pm Saturday.

“We couldn’t find any top talent at the back of the house. We had two great cooks, but to extend our hours and operations we needed to find more chefs,” she said. “But we couldn’t find the right talent for several reasons. We are a niche kitchen, and our gluten-free and plant-based concept is turning some people away.

Restaurant owner focuses on other downtown businesses

This difficulty was one of the deciding factors for Doran to put his 1,900 square foot restaurant up for sale months ago. Recently, she struck a deal with a family that runs restaurants across California, including the Central Valley. He will take over this summer and bring his new concept and new menu.

Doran said the kitchen will currently be lacking in downtown Modesto, and together they plan to announce the new business probably next month.

“It will have a new name and a new concept, but the dining room will remain exactly as it is,” Doran said of buying the restaurant. “It’s a type of cuisine that will appeal to downtown Modesto, and they will always have vegan and vegetarian options.”

The closure and sale means that all five employees of The Farmacy – two chefs and three servers – have been made redundant. Doran said the decision also gave him time to focus more on his larger businesses, event venue and coworking space, which were largely closed during the pandemic and have been rebuilt.

The reaction to the shutdown, which between his social media feeds received hundreds of comments, was overwhelming, Doran said. Making the decision was difficult, she says, but people’s responses have been encouraging.

“It started as a pop-up and we didn’t expect it to last this long,” she said. “When I posted about the shutdown this week, I didn’t expect responses, comments and awareness. It warms my heart to know how much everyone loved it.

Farmacy restaurant manager Rachel Morrisette prepares a takeout order in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. The restaurant has closed due to surging COVID-19 cases.

Farmacy restaurant manager Rachel Morrisette prepares a takeout order in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. The restaurant has closed due to surging COVID-19 cases.

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