COPIA: the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, which has struggled financially since opening in 2001, is cutting a third of its staff and selling off part of its grounds, in an effort to stanch a debt that is running at $10 million annually.
The Napa cultural center, which was founded by Robert Mondavi, will lay off 25 of its 85 employees, a move COPIA’s president, Arthur Jacobus, hopes will generate $3 million in savings.
Most of the pink slips will be given to full-time security guards who watched over the center’s art collection, according to COPIA’s head wine curator, Peter Marks. “We’ve realized that people don’t come to Napa for art, they come for wine, food and lifestyle. So we’re cutting back on exhibitions.” Part of the gallery space will be dedicated to hosting conferences. Paring back on art will also translate into energy savings, since temperature and humidity controls no longer will be needed as intensely.
The good news for wine and food lovers is that those departments will largely be untouched. The wine division lost only one part-time employee, “and we’re streamlined for the future,” Marks says.
COPIA never really attracted the crowds its founders had anticipated, partly because of its location, on the wrong side of Napa from downtown. But things may be changing. Next summer, the Oxbow Public Market, modeled after San Francisco’s wildly successful Ferry Plaza Marketplace, will open. Adjacent to COPIA, the market is expected to lure in hoards of shoppers, leading Marks to make a rosy prediction. “In a few years, COPIA will be a gold mine. This will give us a new lease on life.”
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