Community restaurant closes after 48 years

first_img“We try to give the best services we possibly can,” Rodas said. “I think we did well while we were here, but what happened was beyond our control.” “We’re not like fast food restaurants. You can actually sit down, be served,” Rodas said. “From what I hear, [customers are] all saying, ‘Where are we going to eat now?’ because around here there’s no other restaurant like this.” Rodas said even though Grinder was closing and the employees were losing their jobs, they were optimistic that things would get better.   “The service staff is very patient and kind,” Diaz said. “It’s almost like family … You don’t feel like you’re being rushed or in a hurry. That’s what I enjoy about [Grinder].” Waitress Mercedes Ortiz has been working at Grinder for 32 years and was devastated to hear about its closing because she has a sentimental attachment to the place.  On Sunday, the diner — that has served the area for 48 years and is the last remaining location of the Grinder chain — will close its doors. “People have come here [to] celebrate birthdays, celebrate graduation [and] celebrate the life achievements,” Rodas said. “A lot of generations of USC students have come through here.” Rodas, who has been working at Grinder for 29 years, said many customers who first visited as USC students years ago now bring their kids. He added that what he’ll miss most about his time at Grinder is the relationships he has built with the customers.  An old-fashioned, homey dining room and traditional American menu have attracted generations of students to grab a seat at the counter of the Grinder restaurant near campus.  “It reminds me of a lot of the places that I grew up going to by the beach with my dad, it’s got that very homey feel,” Martin said. “I went with a bunch of my friends, so I associate going there with the memories I share with them.” “I recall this street, Figueroa, was just an automobile row, just cars, empty parking spaces,” Diaz said. “When the Olympics came, they got spruced up, but the Grinder was here earlier than that, 10 years earlier. For us, people who don’t drive, it was a step up for us, so finally we [had] a fancy restaurant.” For many long-time customers living nearby, Grinder’s closing means they will lose the only sit-down, full-service restaurant within walking distance, as fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Panda Express populate most of Figueroa Street, Rodas said. Assistant manager Carlos Rodas said the land from Figueroa Street to Flower Street north of West 28th Street, including the Grinder and Taco Bell properties, was sold to a developer, but that he did not know the new owner or the future of the property. Employees received two weeks’ notice of the diner’s closing on Feb. 16.  Grinder is popular among USC students because of its proximity to the campus and the 20% discount for USC students. Grinder serves a full menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner all day in order to provide more options for customers.  Grinder’s closing will mean that workers will soon find themselves unemployed. Grinder has many long-time employees who treat the restaurant not only as their job but also as a family, Rodas said.  Diaz, who dines at Grinder once a week, said she enjoys meeting friends in the cozy diner where she has gotten to know many employees over the years. Taylor Martin, a sophomore majoring in international relations and global business, said dining at Grinder reminds him of his parents cooking up pancakes at home, since the service makes him comfortable and relaxed. “It’s frustrating because [Grinder’s closing] is not because of what we do here or performance — it is something beyond our control,” Rodas said. “We have to basically get out and go find another job.” “It felt more home-like, and the service is very good,” Bravo said. “After a few times of coming, the servers generally know you, and they treat you like part of the family.” “We don’t own the land, so the land was sold,” Rodas said. “Whoever bought the land wants us out since they want to develop the land.” “I love the Grinder, this is like my second house, being here all day, every day,” Ortiz said. “I was young when I started working here … I was sad to hear that the owner is going to close the restaurant.” (Beatrice Gao | Daily Trojan) Pat Diaz, a long-time customer at Grinder who lives nearby, said she loves the diner for its reasonable prices and proximity to her home since she is unable to drive. She recounted how Grinder had survived for decades and benefited the community. Danny Bravo, another resident living in the neighborhood, has been coming to the diner on weekends with his family since he was a kid. “One door closes, one door opens, so something positive has to come to us,” Rodas said. “Right now it’s maybe because our judgment is a little cloudy and our vision is cloudy, but that clears up as time moves on.”last_img read more

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