The owners of a popular family-owned Novato eatery facing financial
hurdles have enlisted a resourceful real estate broker.
Maya Palenque fell into troubled financial waters after the death of owner Young Dugan in 2010. The Korean-born ballerina purchased the restaurant 13 years ago after her husband, Colonel/CWO 4 Richard Anthony Dugan, died.
Young Dugan ran Maya Palenque with their son Joe Dugan. But along with the restaurant, Joe Dugan inherited financial liabilities associated with the mortgage crisis that swooped away the fortunes of his family among countless others.
Now Dugan hopes to keep the business afloat by selling the 349 Enfrente Road structure in a deal that would allow Maya Palenque to serve up their signature crab enchiladas for many years to come.
Dugan is asking below market value for the property in exchange for a friendly lease arrangement that includes below-market rent.
Bradley Real Estate broker Bill Hart, the architect of the proposal, said it calls for a 10-year lease with four five-year options, meaning the restaurant could stay in business for up to 30 years.
Joe Dugan said he's committed to doing whatever it takes to keep the longtime Novato institution open for business.
“The greatest thing about this place is the families,” Dugan said.
“There are so many families where I’ve seen the couples meet here, get married, have kids, and now their kids are in elementary school and they are still coming.”
Many locals have fond memories of Maya Palenque.
“I grew up in Novato and it was part of my upbringing, I even worked here for four years, " said Novato resident and longtime customer Rooney McAlonan.
"I don’t know if ("iconic") is the right world, but this is where we come, this is where we all meet. It’s a community.”
Employees are stakeholders in Maya Palenque too. All but one live in Novato, and most have worked there many years.
“This was the first job I got when I arrived from Mexico when I was seventeen,” longtime manager Carlos Sanchez said.
“I was hired by the first owner in 1991. I wanted to be part of the team, and I’m still here. I was a busser, waiter, bar back, bartender, and now I am the manager. I do everything.”
Dugan and Sanchez say they'll do everything they can to stay open.
“Everyone that comes in says this is their second home,” Dugan said. “Where are they going to go? We need someone to help us save Maya Palenque.”
Hart insists the sellers aren't seeking charity, noting the proposed deal offers potential buyers a sound investment value.
“We priced the real estate lower so the lease rate is affordable, and Joe and Carlos can stay (in business)," Hart said.
"This is an incredible income investment for someone. With this real estate being valued at significantly less than $300 a square foot for freeway frontage property in Marin, it’s a built-in good deal.”