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The group of ladies of a certain age — some of whom disclosed theirs, others of whom did not — had assembled Thursday at the Kenwood Restaurant in Sonoma Valley to celebrate a birthday.

To a one, they were sorry that Max Schacher, who with his wife, Susan Schacher, has owned and operated the eatery for 26 years, is selling it.

"It's taken us through the years," said Marcie Wright of Santa Rosa.

Schacher was wearing his chef's whites as he prepared for the lunch rush. The native of Switzerland said he put the restaurant up for sale because "it's time."

"I started in restaurants when I was 15," he said. He's 67 now. "I'm going to take it easy for a while."

William Foss of Windsor, who owns Fish Restaurant in Sausalito, bought the Highway 12 restaurant, which before its current incarnation was Bunny's Country Kitchen, famous for its fried chicken.

The low-slung, ranch-style building faces vineyards on three sides and has a hill full of oaks behind it. Foss said the name will remain but that he is planning a new menu.

"I have so much respect for Max in terms of his work ethic and cooking abilities," he said. "We're still playing with the menu, trying to be aware of everyone who is already a customer and be aware of customers we'd like to get back," he said.

"The goal is to create Sonoma regional cuisine," he said. "I'm getting tired of farm-to-table, just the words, and I'm not sure anyone is doing it the way we like to anyway."

The deal is expected to close Sept. 15, said Foss, 49, a Los Gatos native who was a co-founder of Netscape Communications. "We're trying to work with as much of the original staff as possible."

"Nope," said Schacher, asked whether he would open another restaurant.

He described in pithy terms the satisfactions and burdens of owning a restaurant. "You drink for free," he said. "I got wrinkles and gray hair."

Also, he later added, "I met a lot of people, made a lot of friends."

The 50-table restaurant has been a staple of the Valley of the Moon, a destination for tourists, for local winemakers who would often gather there after the kitchen had closed for the night, and for the ladies birthday club that arrived on Thursday for a celebration.

"Did you ever see that program, 'Cheers'?" said Gloria Dermott, 83, of Santa Rosa, recalling the 1980s hit television sitcom about a Boston bar and its cast of characters.

"It's kind of like that," she said.

"We go through all the restaurants and we end up at Kenwood," said Barbara Konicek of Santa Rosa.

"I drove from Roseville; it took something like one-and-a-half hours," said Lynn Moore, who is 93.

Dermott added, "Michael used to be the bartender and he used to bring us our drinks when we sat down, because he knew what they were."

As for Schacher, she said, "If he's in a good mood, he'll give you a hug."

Schacher, who also lives in Kenwood, started work in restaurants as an apprentice cook in Geneva. He still has a Swiss accent.

"When I say 'work,' people think I'm saying 'walk,'" he said.

His point was this: "I work in Germany. I work in England. I work in Italy. I work in Tahiti. I work in Hawaii, I was chef in San Francisco." Now though, "I have no plans," he said.

(Staff Reporter Diane Peterson contributed to this article. You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.)