Photo: New management was determined to keep the charm House of Shaw has exuded for years while adding some modern twists. (DUANE SANDERS/CONTRIBUTOR)
Maintaining the charm of something old and familiar while adding modern touches is always a balancing act. You don’t want to diminish the integrity of the original but you want to move forward, offering the perfect blend of a vintage brew and a new flavor.
After years of running local restaurants and agricultural businesses, David Royce had the grit, guts and confidence to do just that with House of Shaw Café & Bakery, one of Stockton’s most beloved coffee houses.
Still under the same roof as when Marzouka and Sam Sulaiman owned it just off the Miracle Mile portion of Pacific Avenue, House Of Shaw has turned into a chic modern day café. While still a daily stop for its long time loyal clientele, the café is also attracting an up and coming business and neighborhood crowd with its extended menu and hours.
“I’d been a regular customer for over 25 years.” Royce said. “For 22 years I’ve owned Royce Farms Barbecue and Mobile Catering but I loved to come to Shaw for great coffee, pastries, and the overall freshness and quality. And of course with the way Marzouka and Sam Sulaiman ran things and treated customers, we soon became friends.”
A true foodie, Royce always appreciated Marsuka’s homemade lentil soup, hummus, meatloaf and of course the famous Peggy’s Tuna served in pocket bread.
Royce closed down his restaurant on the Highway 99 frontage road near Eight Mile Road in 2019, turned it into catering only and was contemplating his next move, when Sam and Marzouka told him they wanted to sell the café.
“I was always struck with the charm of House of Shaw and the comfort level of the people that gathered there on a daily basis. It was not a dime and dash kind of place. It was quaint, and very much relationship driven. I decided I wanted to buy the restaurant and do my best to maintain the integrity and character of what they had built over 50 years,” Royce added thoughtfully.
Royce started by working with Marzouka and Sam for 6 months. He watched and learned Mazouka’s cooking methods, and the daily operations of the café and met their suppliers and customers.
In early 2020, once the Sulaiman’s fully retired, the plan was to slowly transition the café with new items and hours, but never close, Royce explained. But then of course, Covid hit and he decided to turn that challenge into an opportunity. Royce closed the café for 6 months and did a total remodel. Fresh paint, new appliances, flooring, lighting, chairs and marble table tops all in a traditional black and white motif, created a modern, upbeat city like vibe.
“We enhanced the menu and changed the view,” Royce said.
Customers can get original menu items along with newer lunch and pastry items and fresh daily specials, all made on premise.
And after a short hiatus Marzouka returned offering her culinary skills and unique customer service style. “It’s a win-win,”Royce said.
“It was hard for me when I closed my restaurant. I missed my customers and I knew she would too, Royce said. “Now every Wednesday Marzouka spends the day with me cooking, shaking hands with her friends and kissing babies. Customers love seeing her here.”
House of Shaw is now open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. for Sunday brunch and stays open until 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 9p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
“We wanted to offer more for our customers so we added Sunday brunch. And so many of our local neighbors love to walk in the evenings. The later hours allow for a leisurely glass of wine and a charcuterie board,” Royce said.
As a third generation Stocktonian and farmer, Royce’s roots run deep in the community he loves. He started farming as a boy in order to sell fresh produce at their family’s fruit stand and later as the business grew managed their farmers market. Next came Royce Farms Barbecue and Mobile Catering.
Selling fresh quality products and warmly greeting customers came naturally to Royce, and is still in his eyes, a winning formula.
“I’ve always loved cooking and that fast paced kind of atmosphere. I thrive in the kitchen. It’s a way of life for me. All the juggling, keeping it all going,” he said with a laugh.