I’ve written about the Westside Café before.
When Elena bought the café from the young couple who originally opened it, I was skeptical. Elena left the menu pretty much as it was; a Latina serving Asian fusion wraps and salads seemed, well, odd. Not to mention the huge smoothie menu. The Westside is next to a delicatessen that was thriving; it didn’t seem like people would stop in for more than coffee drinks. (Elena did offer pastries to go with the coffee drinks.)
When I was working I stopped there now and then, and walked up there on the weekends for a coffee. The last few years of my job, my commute route led away from Elena’s but there were always weekends. Then my schedule changed when I retired and she became less of a stop in my life.
This week, after a dentist’s appointment I stopped in to get wraps for lunch and a coffee. While I was waiting, I asked her how long she’d been there.
“Ten years on April 7,” she said.
(I made a mental note to put that on my calendar ,to take them some balloons or flowers.)
“My daughters were ten and seven,” she said. “And now… twenty and sixteen.”
Her older daughter is attending Mills College in Oakland CA, and getting a degree in public health. She starts an internship this summer that will take her to Maryland and Massachusetts, with housing provided. Elena’s older daughter got accepted to some great schools and was invited to an interview at Harvard, but she decided not to go because the family could not afford plane fare. I think she wanted to be a little closer to home, too.
Over the ten years, Elena built up a clientele of regulars, like me (only better); a group of retired people who, she says, come in three or four times a week, office workers in the neighborhood – there aren’t many – who come in and get lunch to go, and a handful of people who drive in to get their favorites. Over the ten years, the thriving deli changed hands and is no longer quite so thriving. People who have had disappointments with the deli may be stopping at Elena’s now, and the difference is obvious.
I said, “It’s hard to make money with a restaurant,” and she rolled her eyes.
“It makes a living,” she said.
I wish Elena and all her family all the success they’ve earned, and ten more years. And I think she’s going to move up on my personal schedule. She’ll be seeing more of me.