Doralee Jacobson, the owner of Jack’s Bistro & Famous Bagels, never intended to enter the restaurant industry.
“Our journey in Santa Barbara really started on a fluke. We moved up here to retire. I was a chiropractor and my husband was a Madison Avenue ad exec,” she says.
Shortly after moving to Santa Barbara, Doralee and a friend were talking about the fact that there wasn't any great bread in town.
“I thought, ‘There’s no good bread up here,’” she recalls.
A chiropractor friend of Doralee’s agreed and knew of someone who had started a successful bagel shop in Los Angeles and thought he could help them open up a place. And so they did.
A Runaway Hit
Their restaurant friend came up to Santa Barbara, they found a location, and opened up their original shop at 318 North Milpas in 1995. It was a pretty fast turnaround for Jack’s, only taking about a year from an idea to opening their doors (in other words, lightning bolt fast in restaurant time). It turned out that everyone else in Santa Barbara was craving good bread as well—it was a runaway hit.
“My husband Henry did a promotional buy one get one free and people were lined up around the block. I finally said after a couple of days, ‘You have to stop this and pull the ad. We can’t keep up with people coming up here.’ It was like something you would see on TV,” she says.
Having no experience in the restaurant industry, Doralee credits their success to using only the highest quality ingredients, a consistant product, having a menu that they love, and her roots in the restaurant industry.
“I always just was a really good hostess in my home. I always liked cooking and baking. My mother’s parents had a bakery in Lithuania before my grandmother came to the United States,” she says. “It was something I took to really easily. It’s always been easy for me to make things, bake, and entertain. Of course, [restaurants] are a whole different ballgame.”
After a few years of success at the original Jack’s location on Milpas, they opened another restaurant in Carpinteria in August 1998. At one point Jack’s had three locations, but today they have one on Carpinteria Avenue and one just down the street from their original location on Milpas, which opened in 2003. They were also able to develop a full-service catering side of the business to Jack’s at their Carpinteria location, which has blossomed over the years.
A Local Favorite
If you ask Doralee what her favorite thing about owning a restaurant is she immediately refers to the locals who frequent Jack’s.
“People feel safe when they come and I think they feel very comfortable to be here. Our staff is friendly and I think they have a really good experience,” she says. “Some people come here twice a day.”
Locals have even felt so connected with Jack’s that they used it as a central hub and safe spot when there was a landslide in the county to connect with family and friends.
Above all, Doralee and the whole Jack’s Bistro family feel proud of their restaurant and grateful to be part of the Santa Barbara and Carpinteria communities.
“I like it that I always feel proud when I come in because it has a good impression. The employees keep everything crisp. Our food looks beautiful. It looks like jewelry. I have a fascination with food and how it looks. I like that people really like to come here and they like to eat the food that I’ve put on the menu and that I like to eat,” says Doralee.
Doralee’s best advice to someone who is considering a dive into the restaurant industry is to find a product you’re passionate about.
“We made our bagels and we really love them. We were able to put items on the menu that we really love,” she says. “For me it’s been a wonderful experience to create something that I’m really proud of and I look forward to seeing what is going to develop. I enjoy seeing the customers that are really good friends and enjoying the fruits of my labor.”