Copia, the food and wine mecca launched by Robert Mondavi in downtown Napa, is scaling back again in a quest to become financially sustainable.
The oft-changing center laid off 24 of its 80 full-time employees Thursday and is cutting back its hours from seven days a week to three -- Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting Wednesday.
The center will be open on a daily basis June through September. Copia's gardens, Julia's Kitchen restaurant and the gift store will stay open seven days a week, year-round.
The cutbacks are part of a new business model that calls for Copia to focus its attention on food and wine education. Utilizing its expert food and wine staff, Copia plans to produce cookbooks, recipes, exhibits and courses to be taught on site, on TV, and online.
"The core business is shifting away from a museum and a discovery center and toward producing original content and distribution of food and wine knowledge," said Garry McGuire, president and CEO of Copia. "It's a completely new business model, but part of it stays the same."
By cutting back its hours in the winter, McGuire said he hopes to save about 50 percent of the center's operating costs, which are sizable.
"We get 75 percent of our tourists in the summer and fall," he said. "We could never bring enough people in to make it profitable."
McGuire has also announced plans to open a 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot satellite campus in San Francisco that would include a TV studio, wine classes, wine bar and retail store. He hopes Copia will draw in more people through its satellite campus.
"There are 16 million tourists a year who come through San Francisco," he said. "We're hoping we can reach them in San Francisco and share some of the food and wine education with them."
Eventually, Copia also plans to get into the tourism business, providing Wine Country educational tours into both Sonoma and Napa from the city, he said.
"It will connect the two campuses," McGuire said, "and also offer a wine insider's view."
Copia recently hired Food Network celebrity chef Tyler Florence as its new dean of culinary education. Florence will be in charge of Copia's new consumer food-education programs, including in-house and online classes, and a visiting celebrity-chef program.
Florence will also serve as executive chef of Julia's Kitchen, the restaurant at Copia named after pioneering TV chef and cookbook author Julia Child, one of Copia's founders. The restaurant's current executive chef, Jeff Mosher, will work alongside Florence.
McGuire said that Florence was chosen because his personal warmth, mainstream appeal and farm-to-table food fits in with the new direction of Copia.
"Copia has a bit of a reputation as being very elitist," he said. "We're consciously trying to break that mold."
You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5298 or diane.peterson@