Alison Hardey was just playing tennis at Stanford University when her father bought Jeannine’s.
Now known as Jeannine’s Restaurant and Bakery, the business is thriving with three locations and a fourth one about to open up in Goleta. Jeannine’s was recently named Senate District 17’s Small Business of the Year by state Sen. Hannah Beth-Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.
The business is owned by Eleanor and Gordon Hardey. Jeannine was originally owned by a woman named Jeannine, though the location was leased from Gordon in the 1980s.
Alison remembers coming back from Stanford and going to get Jeannine’s baked goods.
“I would die to just get one of these muffins!” Alison recounted to the News-Press.
However, Jeannine grew tired of the business and Gordon bought it from her in 1987. Alison primarily runs the business with help from her parents, brother and sister.
The business began as a bakery but abandoned the coffee side due to competition from Starbucks, Alison said. Instead, the Hardeys expanded into breakfast and lunch items such as eggs and sandwiches, leaning on Gordon’s restaurant business experience.
“We believe in good food,” Alison said.
“I grew up playing tennis,” Alison said. “I was used to competing, I was used to having to get better all the time. …The restaurant business is the same way. You have to get better every year.
“You can’t use the same old skills you used to use.”
Jeannine’s employs 90 people at its three locations. Two restaurants are in Santa Barbara while the other is in Montecito. The location at 3607 State St. is the oldest Jeannine’s, though it is not the original, which was on Carrillo Street.
Some customers have been going to Jeannine’s for 30 years, which Alison says “blows my mind.”
Jeannine’s has had its ups and downs. A location in Goleta was closed due to lack of business. There was also an unsuccessful attempt to expand into Westlake.
“We’ve had some successes and failures,” Alison said.
The business was honored by Ms. Jackson on June 20. Alison called the senator a personal hero. She remembers playing tennis with Ms. Jackson when she was 13 and 14 years old.
“”She was this role model for me. …To see this attorney, so strong-minded, so confident. … I just admired her,” Alison said, noting that it was a time when women were making forays into business and were expanding their careers instead of just being a “teacher or nurse.”
Twenty-five years later, when Ms. Jackson called to inform Alison that Jeannine’s Restaurant and Bakery was honored as Small Business of the Year, “I was shocked,” Alison said. “To hear it from her, for she had been my childhood hero. It was amazing.
“it meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to my business,” she said, while also praising her employees for working hard and “tirelessly.” She said the recognition honored their hard work and her parents’ work as well.
Jeannine’s is well-known for is their commitment to community. In Ms. Jackson’s press release, she praised Jeannine’s and its staff for public service and support for such nonprofits as hospice, local pre-schools, schools and colleges, the Breast Cancer Society Center, and the Santa Barbara Music Academy.”
Jeannine’s is known for its “Common Table” events — meals held at various locations throughout the South Coast. As many as 200 people attend.
Common Table started after the 2018 Montecito debris flow that killed 23 people. The Montecito restaurant stayed open and shipped in food to help feed the community for around three months.
“It was such a huge loss, such devastation to our community,” Alison said. “We just felt that we had to be there. Our doors had to be opened. We had to do something. We couldn’t leave.
“And through that I could see people needed to come together as a community. They had lost so much but still had each other,” Alison said.
She was then approached by Todd Capps to start the Common Table event in partnership with the Walter and Lois Capps Foundation. Meals
“It was creating community through food and letting each other know we had each other. Some people didn’t have their homes, their things. They didn’t know whether they could rebuild. Some people lost their children, their dogs. It was devastating but we had each other. We could sit down and have a meal together,” she told the News-Press.
“We’re not doing it for money. We just do it because we feel a need to know our neighbors,” Alison said. “When you put food in the mix, it works. I know that from being in the food business.”
The restaurant will be expanding into Goleta, Alison said, because it is a “hot market” that has become a “destination place.”
“We felt, OK, it’s ready. It can support us, a Jeannine’s unit. We felt it’s the market that’s actually growing, whereas Santa Barbara is pretty congested with restaurants and traffic and lack of parking, and to open up another in Santa Barbara doesn’t really make a lot of sense,” she said.
She wants Jeannine’s to be a place of comfort and good food.
“Jeannine’s is a place to relax. It’s a place for 10 minutes, 20 minutes … a mini-vacation from your worries,” Alison said.
And she wants both guests and staff to be treated well.
“It’s a consistent circle. And I don’t think we’ll ever lose that.”