One can’t help but wander along North Third Avenue through Oakdale’s downtown area and wonder, what is going on?
A sign hung most recently would be the first clue for the unknowing as a “Redwood Café” sign now lights up the east side of the former Reata Events Center.
But not to be confused or concerned, Reata owners John and Ann Maddox have partnered with Modesto’s Redwood Café owner Bob Campana to bring the best of both worlds to downtown Oakdale.
“We have the building. We’re improving the building and Bob is just doing his thing,” Ann Maddox said of the popular 160 N. Third event location, noting she and husband John have been long time acquaintances with Campana, who has played with the idea for several years.
“It was good timing for a number of reasons,” she shared of the partnership coming to fruition. “On our part, obviously just being a venue was dead in the water (since COVID). But also, just Oakdale’s changed over the last several years.”
As a longtime resident, as well as business owner in Oakdale, the building owner shared her excitement for bringing something new to the downtown area. Maddox also noted the history of the building and the couple’s passion for maintaining the integrity and partnering with someone who recognized its uniqueness as well as honored its history.
“This is the neatest building,” Maddox stated, explaining its history as a former brewery as well as a long-ago Dodge dealership. “It’s a unique building. It’s unique in Oakdale and the venue was perfect because it was right for Oakdale. Now we think it’s perfect timing, Bob is enthusiastic and using his creativity.”
Though much of the building is mid-renovation to create quaint and cozy dining spaces, the large Reata Banquet Room remains for future weddings and special events. The Reata maintains its entrance on East E Street.
The once pool company owner/designer turned restaurateur, Campana shared he was approached by the Maddox’s mid-summer of 2020 during the shutdowns of COVID. A venture not typical during that time, the Modesto Redwood Café owner noted he wondered if the couple had lost their minds.
“They really felt that Oakdale would support a Redwood type venue,” Campana said, adding the couple presented an offer which made sense for all parties involved.
“Redwood would not be here without the Maddox’s,” he continued. “I just love this building. I’ve admired the building for a long time. If it proves to be successful, which we all think it will, the credit should go to them because they’re the ones who pulled the trigger.”
Not new to the dining business, John and Ann Maddox own nine area Mountain Mike’s pizzas, as well as also being building developers for other Mountain Mike’s, yet the couple have committed to making this fun.
“Bob’s running the restaurant, so we don’t have to do that part. They do a great job,” Maddox said of the Redwood team. “We are definitely different segments of restaurant. We like quality, we like the way it’s run.”
“Bob is calling the shots on how that goes,” Maddox said, “but it is fun to see the parts and pieces of it coming together.”
Campana shared his love for the restaurant business happened sort of by default after semi-retiring from the pool business. With more time to visit his daughters in the San Francisco Bay area, going out to eat at a variety of nice restaurants became a thing and sparked his interest.
“There’s so many horror stories about it,” he said of the restaurant business. “Then I just decided to do it and the outcome is where we are now.”
Transforming his Dale Road Vintage Gardens location to the now popular Redwood Café dining experience came by way of much reading, research and television watching from some of the experts.
“It gave me a creative outlet. When I was selling pools I was able to create stuff with other people’s money all day long, that was my job,” Campana said. “Our customer is buying experience. They’re buying a meal, but they’re buying experience. Most restaurateurs don’t understand that or aren’t willing to put the capital into it.”
The man behind the downtown creation shared the location will be a fine dining, casual restaurant.
“Our saying is going to be ‘Dusty boots welcome’,” he said. “The thing is if you have dusty boots you get preferred seating in this town. I want that message to be there. If someone wants a good steak they don’t have to dress up to come in and get one. I want that customer.”
The business partner shared he himself can be found regularly wearing shorts as he visits with and greets guests at the Modesto location.
“This is a vibrant little town,” Campana said of Oakdale. “I am getting a sense that this is really going to be a part of this community. We’re going to have a tiger by the tail I think here. This is going to be a little gem.”
Both Maddox and Campana shared they’re looking forward to many things as they bring Redwood to Oakdale. One of those things is being participants in the weekly Farmers Market that traditionally runs during the summer and early fall and offering theme night dinners with a portion of proceeds going back to the community and a number of local causes.
Now, however, the focus remains on all the details of creating a space where people will not just want to go, but speak fondly of their experiences there. For Campana it is about the “memory moments” and creating an ambience which is both cozy and welcoming and that comes from the details. Every inch of the space renovation is due to the mastermind of Campana, from the lighting, to the custom tables, even the floors, walls and ceiling; Campana directs it all.
Walking through the process of creating a one of a kind space downtown, the Modesto-based businessman is also coming to learn why the Maddox’s love their hometown of Oakdale and its community.
As Campana speaks of building needs and the overall process thus far, he offers great kudos to the City of Oakdale and the response to whatever has been needed. Sharing there have been no delays, he said he simply makes a call and everything falls into place.
“Brian Odom particularly has stepped up and made this experience truly a pleasure to do,” he said. “He has really, really supported this. He wants this for the community, we’re getting a vibe that the city wants this to happen and we are extremely humbled by that.”
“What we wanted was just not a restaurant and their staff is fabulous, that’s part of it too,” Maddox said of she and her husband approaching Campana. “It’s one thing to have a building but you really have people that have been in the business a long time and do an excellent job.
“It fit all the way around to look to him,” she continued. “This is a moment that I think Oakdale wants something in their community. I want something in my community. I want to be able to say hey, you want to come to Oakdale? We can go to dinner here. It’s just perfect timing.”
For Campana, he agreed that the time is right.
“I think that people are longing for socialization. They’re longing to get out of their environment,” he shared. “They want to go somewhere and treat themselves. I’m very optimistic. This will be a true escape.”
Current plans are to open the dinner-only eatery by late April early May. Upon initial opening the location will be open five days a week. Further details will continue to be shared on the Redwood Café social media pages.