The former Academy Club’s retro martini glass sign has been a staple of Main Street West Point for decades—and a beacon to those in need of a stiff drink. While hard liquor hasn’t been served there in several years, the beloved community hub became known for its offerings of garlic steak sandwiches, wine, beer, and live music, until it closed in spring of 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, nearly two years later, the quaint building at 311 Main Street is under new ownership, with a new name, and once again offering libations—though the new cafe’s drinks are more along the lines of Americanos and frappuccinos and smoothies, though there will also be mimosas and a large selection of beer and wine.
New owner Monika Brazier, known to most as Willow, says she wants the cafe to be the community hub it once was and is planning on hosting live music, poetry readings, and theatrical performances. Plans also include expanding seating to the patio out back in warmer weather.
Brazier is a Calaveras transplant, having moved back from Georgia to live with her “chosen family” Jack Young prior to his wife passing of terminal cancer in 2018. Brazier considers 90-year-old Young her brother, though they actually met 22 years ago. Young helped Brazier get the business started, contributing his opinion on everything including the menu, the logo, and the paint color. Brazier says Young was the cook in the family, and luckily “he has good taste.”
Brazier knows her way around the kitchen, too, and is an experienced business owner with two prior coffee shops in Sacramento, as well as a 21-year career as a massage therapist. Brazier said of her new venture, “We’re gonna have fun. I wanted something that I’d be happy to come to.”
Brazier’s got big plans for Willow’s on Main. Brazier, her cook, Anissa Padilla, and mixologist/barista Courtney Garcia, have been working up a menu of exciting offerings that she says will likely develop as they learn what the community wants.
So far, the community has been supportive and enthusiastic about the new eatery. “I was not prepared for this community…” Willow said, explaining how people have offered to help with everything from donating china to working for free to help get the cafe started on the right foot.
So far, it’s working. A soft opening was held on Jan. 16, and the cafe welcomed customers despite setbacks like no internet for their brand new POS system due to severe storms and issues with their utility company.
After regrouping, the cafe opened again on Thursday, Jan. 27, and is already receiving praise from the community.
Breakfast offerings at Willow’s include “yum yums” such as “decadent” cinnamon rolls, burritos, breakfast flatbreads, pancakes, and Buñuelos—cinnamon and sugar-coated fried flat dough. The cafe has an espresso machine and a full menu of coffee and espresso drinks, including a frozen blended drink made with real ice cream.
Lunch includes cold and hot sandwiches, with “real chicken and steak” that is fresh, not frozen. Brazier says she doesn’t want to offer “fried stuff,” but instead is focusing on fresh, made-to-order foods that can be served in under 12 minutes. BBQ and pulled pork will be smoked on-site. Willow’s will have eight beers on tap, as well as bottles of popular brews.
Dinner service will be offered on holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, and if all goes well, Brazier and her staff of four will plan on offering regular dinner options.
Willow’s on Main is located at 311 Main St in West Point and is currently open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Wednesdays. Willows on Main can be reached by phone at (916) 792-3944.