Fresco Cafe in downtown Santa Barbara.
Fresco Cafe in Santa Barbara closed for good Tuesday. Credit: Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo

Fresco Cafe, a pastry, sandwich and salad restaurant that thrived for decades in Santa Barbara’s Five Points Shopping Center, abruptly closed its doors on Tuesday.

Owner Mark Brouillard informed Noozhawk on Tuesday afternoon about the closure through a text message. He said he couldn’t talk about it at the moment because he needed time to heal.

“In the 28 years we have been in business we have made many friends and served thousands of customers,” Brouillard said in a note he posted. “We remain very grateful for the opportunity to serve Santa Barbara for these many years. We have been fortunate to work with the best group of people anyone could hope for.”

Fresco enjoyed success for more than two decades inside the Five Points Shopping Center, but it moved last October after the Florida shopping mall owners raised his rent to $21,000 a month.

Fortune found him, however, when a spot in the historic El Centro Building, 23 E. Canon Perdido St., opened. He jumped at the chance. The rent was about $11,000 a month, a significant reduction from the Five Points Shopping Center.

Brouillard opened Fresco Cafe in 1995, and with its fresh sandwiches, salads and pastries, the healthy spot was an instant hit. The restaurant at its Five Points location, consistently was packed with return customers, some of them having dinner or lunch there every day of the week that Fresco Cafe is open.

Brouillard, a resilient Rhode Island native who taught himself to cook and make the desserts and dishes for which Fresco is known — the flourless chocolate cake, the chocolate-topped vanilla muffin and the gorgonzola walnut salad, launched the business in 1995 with his then-wife Jill.

Brouillard had been working since he moved to the new location last October to get a beer and wine license, and expressed frustration with the length of time it took to get approval.

“We ask that you continue to support small businesses here in Santa Barbara, as they are the center of the community that connects us all,” Brouillard said.