Scoop: New team brought on to help renovate the National and Holbrooke hotels

Acme Hospitality managing partner Sherry Villanueva (Photo credit: Paul Wellman, Santa Barbara Independent)

Editor’s note: This article was updated on 2/4 with an official press release. I posted it in the comments section of this article.

Acme Hospitality, a seasoned food-and-beverage operator that helped create a burgeoning food, wine and art district in Santa Barbara, has been brought onboard to help with the renovation of the National and Holbrooke hotels, Sierra Foothills Report has learned.

“Both projects are making great progress,” said Sherry Villanueva, co-owner and managing partner at Acme Hospitality, in an interview. The hospitality firm owns seven restaurants and a hotel in Santa Barbara, she said.

Designer Jordan Fife is expected to continue scouting out hotels that would be well suited to acquisition and refurbishment, as he did with the National in Nevada City and Holbrooke in Grass Valley, Villanueva said.

“Jordan made some amazing contributions,” she said. “He had a vision that was driven by a love for these properties. He identified them and helped gather them up.”

She continued: “Eastern Real Estate needed an operator that could look at the operational flow of these properties. We have a proven track record and only the best intentions.” Eastern Real Estate, with offices in Boston and Santa Barbara, had collaborated with Fife on the National and Holbrooke.

Villanueva promised “my priority is to get the renovations done as quickly as possible,” working in concert with the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City building departments and local contractors and tradespeople.

She was reluctant to provide a specific time for reopening the National, however. The Holbrooke will close in mid-February, as first reported on Sierra Foothills Report. “We tried to keep it open as long as possible. There is extensive plumbing and electrical work.”

The owners are sensitive to the Holbrooke’s claim as the “oldest continually operating” saloon in the West, so pop-up events are planned, she said.

Acme’s background

Acme Hospitality has won praise for its projects. The Santa Barbara arts district, affectionately known as the Funk Zone, is “the work of prolific Santa Barbara restaurant group Acme Hospitality,” according to L.A. Eater.

“They’re the ones behind popular places like the Lark, Lucky Penny, casual Spanish mainstay Loquita, and more than a few other wine and bakery tenants across the Funk Zone.

“Add in plans for Modern Times to grow a big new brewery and restaurant compound not far away, plus Phillip Frankland Lee’s projects at the Montecito Inn, and suddenly the Central Coast is looking busier than ever.”

Added the San Jose Mercury News: “The Funk Zone nestles up on the east side of State Street, between the ocean and Highway 101, offering an ever-evolving array of ways to eat, drink and play among converted warehouses that now house boutique wineries, taprooms and al fresco dining spots.”

Beyond work, Villanueva has made philanthropy a priority, according to She volunteers on several nonprofit boards and takes service trips around the world with her family.

Her husband and two daughters have completed over 30 service trips together to places in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bolivia and Zambia.  Villanueva graduated from UC Berkeley in 1984.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

13 thoughts on “Scoop: New team brought on to help renovate the National and Holbrooke hotels”

  1. I’m happy to see Ms. Villanueva take over these projects. They were obviously stalled, and needed fresh guidance.
    One suggestion for a first fix at the Holbrooke- The lights dim in the bar/dining room when someone uses the elevator.

  2. I’m a local in Grass Valley and really enjoyed the Wednesday night ‘jams’ at the Holbrooke Hotel but since the new owner took over, that went away and alot of people are very disappointed that happened. We locals need a place to meet, dance and have fun. We’re hoping Jordan will rethink that aspect.

  3. I received a press release this evening from Erin Lewis, effectively confirming what was written with some more details about the contractors. Erin and Jef Lewis are neighbors and run Brewbilt (, which we write about regularly. I am hopeful and optimistic both hotel projects will be successful. After all, we are homeowners, local business owners and stakeholders:

    February 4, 2019
    National Exchange Hotel Company

    If you have walked past the National Hotel in recent months, you may have wondered what is going on inside the grand old hotel? While it may not look like much on the surface, there is great progress being made inside. A team of talented contractors and tradesmen have been working tirelessly on the delicate demolition of the hotel interior for the past year.

    Carefully pulling back decade upon decade of construction layers has revealed some time-consuming structural issues that caused unforeseen delays. But demolition has also revealed some long hidden treasures – historic artifacts as well as beautiful original floors and ceilings, the kind of details that make this property such a unique asset to our community.

    The property owner continues to work closely with Nevada City to finalize permits while continuing to make progress inside. This work has been led by local contractors including Craig Totter of CAT Construction of Weaverville (window restoration), DC Tile of Grass Valley (tile work), DMCE Inc. of Grass Valley (concrete and engineering), Guy & Co. of Nevada City (wood floors), Maliszewski Construction of Cedar Ridge (rough carpentry), Mountain Electrical Construction of Grass Valley (electrical) and Sean Thompson of Nevada City (drywall).

    As the project enters the second phase, Jordan Fife will be moving on using his considerable talents to focus on property acquisitions in other small towns around the country. The property owners have engaged Acme Hospitality, their long-term hospitality partners, to take the baton to complete the renovation and operation going forward. Acme has a proven track record in designing and operating beautiful, successful restaurant and hotel properties that are deeply connected to the local community. Their success in their local community of Santa Barbara is an outstanding example of the quality projects they own and operate.

    The Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley will also be undergoing a much needed facelift, and while the group had hoped to keep the doors open during renovation, a difficult decision was made to close the hotel beginning February 12, 2019 so that the upgrades could be made more efficiently. We are grateful to have the project in the capable hands of Nunninck Construction and Sierra Foothills Construction, both from Grass Valley, who are working diligently so we may reopen the hotel to the public as soon as possible.

    In an effort to retain the designation of oldest continuously operating saloon west of the Mississippi, a series of community events are being planned that will take place throughout the construction.

    Acme Hospitality has been steadily building a team of local designers, architects, contractors and craftsmen to who are working hard to bring both properties up to today’s health and safety standards while honoring the storied past that is woven into their history. Local designer Bri Ingram will be working with the design team on this ambitious project.

    The intent of the renovation projects on both hotels is to preserve the historic legacy of these two storied properties while breathing new life into the buildings so they can endure. “We are fully committed to restoring both hotels with integrity, so that they can serve as the cornerstones of Nevada City and Grass Valley for another 150 years”.

    The Holbrooke will be holding a public Estate Sale on Saturday, February 23, 2019 led by Paul Matson. Proceeds from the sale will benefit Yuba River Charter School. Stick around for a send off celebration from 4pm-6pm with live entertainment provided by Ragged but Right and food and wine from the Holbrooke team.

  4. Thank you to Jordan Fife for wading in on this project, and for staying in the saddle through the inevitable surprises. The town is pulling for you!

    1. My mistake, I believed Mr. Fife had called for help, not moved on. So, okay let us just wait and see what’s up for the old National next with this new group.

  5. Jeff, I admit you had me there. I was fooled into rooting for the kid, even though his projections seemed implausible.
    Is this a,”bait and switch”?
    I still hope this bunch looks at the Mt. Lassen Hotel.
    I mean, what the hell, it can’t hurt to check it out.

    1. No, these people are for real. As for the Mt. Lassen Hotel, I think I’d wait until Susanville is designated a State Cultural District. How’s your diner renovation going in that town?

  6. Glad you asked Jeff. The Grand is still sitting empty I’m afraid. Fortunately, there are a number of great old buildings from which to choose in Susanville. You can pick them up for a song. An old apartment building blew its roof off last year and a young contractor just finished remodeling it. We plan to rent one of the studio apartments as a getaway, so we don’t have to stay in the motels anymore. From there I can go up and stay and really get things done.
    The Grand was my dream but, if I were to have to rip all the historic charm away from it, and it looks that way (regulations), it wouldn’t be worth the relatively high cost. I am considering the old William’s furniture store for a remodel as a bakery similar to the Sparrow Bakery in Bend. There is also, “Primo’s”, an old shop I like the look of as well. Primo, a friend of my dad’s, was an Italian war prisoner held out at Herlong. There he fell in love with Lassen lass and stayed for the rest of his life. The aromas emanating from his kitchen would pull you right off the sidewalk and into his delicatessen.
    Brad and I toured the Mt. Lassen last year and it is so sad, pigeons have been roosting in it, I’ll say no more about what we walked through. But, it is a sound building, steel and concrete, a real value for an hotelier. Many older Susanville buildings that burned in the old days were rebuilt in steel and concrete to last. In fact, the Mt Lassen burned in the mid-century but didn’t burn down.
    Buildings are cheap in Susanville and I expect a wave of retirees out of the prison will be making their way to Lassen Land in the next few years. Then prices will go up.
    Susanville is not a gold rush town, it is a frontier town, with wide open spaces and clean air. The city has a beautiful city park and ball park grandstand. After the stunning new, state of the art, courthouse was built at the bottom of town, the state of California granted Lassen County 8.5 million in restoration funds for the gorgeous 100 year old, greek revival courthouse up in the old town. That was nice.
    Every day I get to visit Susanville virtually on FB. Check out, “Susanvillestuff “. Each morning Jeremy Couso, of the historical society, gets up before dawn and takes a walk as the sun comes up, photographing local scenes. He shares the beauty of our county on his page.
    Seeing that loveliness every day is helping me keep the dream alive!

Leave a Reply to Chip Wilder Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: