Classic car owners in San Clemente have a new option to take care of their beloved vehicles. Coastal Auto is bringing experienced hands to restoration and maintenance of these vehicles. Jim Benitez, who has years of experience working with hot rods and the restoration of classic cars, shifted operations from San Diego to San Clemente in July. Already, business partner Sandra Gattie said, many of the car lovers Benitez had been working with from San Diego and Orange County have already made their way to the new shop on Calle Negocio. The San Clemente location is closer to Benitez’s home in Dana Point than his previous shop in Escondido. Benitez is well known for his quality workmanship in restoration circles.
Gattie is handling the business side of the operation, in addition to operating an insurance office out of the location. Benitez is strictly taking care of the cars, which Gattie said he’s more than capable of taking care of.
“What’s unique is that he can do everything,” Gattie said. “He can do all of the work on any car himself, he doesn’t have to sub-contract anything out. You have one person working on it, and it’s unlikely that anyone would be able to find someone with the reputation that he has. And he’s quick.”
The Habit Burger Grill has been a hit in the Camino de los Mares shopping center since it opened in late November, with lines out the door a regular sight during both lunch and dinner rushes. Mike Mirkil, vice president of marketing for the Irvine-based chain said the company has opened several restaurants in Orange County in the last few months and were very happy with the results they’d seen in San Clemente.
“We always look for communities with strong family populations and population densities, as well as locations near schools and homes in the area,” Mirkil said. “We need to have both day and evening populations (of diners) in order to succeed. And that’s been borne out so far in San Clemente.” The chain had been very happy to see the long lines, Mirkil said, noting that the restaurant was seeing a steady run of customers throughout, rather than simply relying on lunch and dinner rushes. “It may be a bit of a honeymoon, but seeing good levels throughout the day is a good sign,” Mirkil said.
The company had scouted several locations but said the de los Mares area—near a hospital, movie theater, grocery store and freeway, as well as a number of dense housing developments in the area—had a number of the things the company prized.
The company has tripled its number of restaurants in recent years, jumping from 21 in 2008 to 63 today. While largely based in Southern California, the chain has also opened a location in Arizona and is planning one for Utah in the new year. The recent growth in Orange County, Mirkil said, was a way that the company was “catching up,” with its 2008 move to the area, as most of its restaurants had previously been located in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties.
Kerri Sonenshine, one of the new owners of Wing Stop, a chicken wing franchise located on Avenida Pico across from San Clemente High School, said the restaurant is filling an important food niche in the area, namely, a chicken wing-focused restaurant.
Sonenshine said she and her husband Danny already own several other franchises throughout Orange County, including locations in Irvine, Lake Forest and Rancho Santa Margarita.
“This is our 21st location,” Sonenshine said. “We felt like there was a void here in south Orange County, especially for wing restaurants. We think it’s a great location for a good wing restaurant.”
The company offers a selection of different styles of chicken wings in 10 different sauces made to order, along with sandwiches and traditional side items.
Sonenshine said the company has traditionally partnered with schools and sports teams on fundraisers, and that was already the case here in San Clemente since the restaurant opened November 29. The restaurant helped with a fundraiser at Marblehead Elementary last week and is talking with other schools and teams, she said.
Terry and Jenny Shapiro of Cafe Rae near North Beach are in the midst of celebrating the restaurant’s fifth anniversary. Jenny Shapiro said spending much of that time with the same clientele has brought them new friends.
“We’ve really gotten to know our customers,” Shapiro said. “Most of them are the kind who keep coming back again and again.”
Terry serves as the primary cook at the restaurant, which serves breakfast all day, along with a number of specials that change each week.
“Everything is homemade and fresh,” Jenny said. “It’s a little bit of good home-cooking.”
Jenny has also gotten to indulge her artistic side, taking the opportunity to decorate the restaurant herself.
“It makes it a little more artistic and cheerful,” she said.
Tamara Muslin, owner of two area pet grooming centers, San Clemente and Dana Point Grooming and Pet Spas, recently won a year’s supply of grooming products after winning a contest from pet care company Lambert Kay at an industry trade show in Las Vegas.
Muslin said she would be using some of the company’s new products at both the San Clemente and Dana Point locations.