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Chris Caillier, right, retail manager at Shep's Club in Downtown Fresno, speaks with team members on Wednesday. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

published on January 27, 2021 - 2:43 PM
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When Chris Caillier debuted Shep’s Club (previously the Shepherd’s Inn), the response on social media was mixed to negative.

The vintage, seven-course-meal dining room and bar had been removed, replaced with a deli and farmer’s market. Many saw the changes to the restaurant, which used to house shepherds of Basque descent near the Downtown Fresno railroad tracks, as an insult to the heritage of the establishment. Retail Manager Caillier, however, says it was a choice made out of pragmatism to keep the inn up and running.

“You know, family-style dining is basically buffet dining, which is outlawed in the State of California now under current restrictions,” he said. “So there’s just now way it can continue.”

The changes came under the direction of Elaine Culotti, a real estate developer, interior designer and farmer. As part of Season 2 of the Discovery Channel’s “Undercover Billionaire,” she stepped in advise the historic site on how to bring in revenue.

Over the course of 90 days, Culotti and Caillier refurbished and renovated the building, creating five avenues of business as opposed to the previous restaurant and bar: A deli, a market, a coffee shop, a speakeasy bar and an inn with AirBNB access. Meanwhile, Caillier intends to continue the Basque heritage and culture at the new Shep’s club.

“The same family (Stone) owns it — it hasn’t changed ownership — it just has a change of business director and obviously that’s our undercover billionaire Elaine Culotti, who brought this vision to this building to run all these different avenues of business and all these avenue models through the business.”

Meanwhile, Caillier says they will be able to keep 20 people on the payroll and will bring the family dining back when the time as right, and it will accompany the rest of their additions.

“Undercover Billionaire” will be available for streaming on Discovery+ Wednesday at 8 p.m.

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