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Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since originally being published on July 29.
By Norb Garrett
After almost 20 years of serving San Clemente, The Grill has closed its doors. A popular breakfast and lunch institution known for its breakfast burritos and acai bowls, The Grill’s last day was Sunday, Aug. 1.
“It’s been a journey, and it’s emotional,” said Doug Lemon, 58, who opened the restaurant located at 202 North El Camino Real in 2002. “I’ve put my heart and soul into it, but it’s time to retire from the restaurant business.”
Prior to opening The Grill, Lemon operated the original Surfin’ Donuts on South El Camino Real in the 1980s, a business he sold 10 years ago. It was at the original Surfin’ Donuts location where The Grill officially launched.
A 1982 San Clemente High School graduate, Lemon started at his grandfather’s donut shop, Little Surfing Donuts (where Guicho’s on South El Camino Real is today) just after a stint in the military and a couple years at Saddleback College. Later, Lemon bought out the shop and embarked on his career as a restaurateur.
Using the marketing skills he learned while building a business with his mom, Lemon quickly grew the wholesale part of Little Surfing Donuts by landing contracts with area cafeterias, churches and golf courses.
That success led to buying the old Yum Yum’s donut shop and rebranding it as Surfin’ Donuts and building a small network of donut shops. In 2002, Lemon opened in The Grill’s most recent location, which was formerly a Winchell’s Donut House.
Lemon and his wife, Sheryl Leverich, still own the building, which they will be leasing to a new restaurant operator.
As they move away from restaurant ownership, they’ll be focused on managing their properties and enjoying time away from the 24/7 commitment required in the restaurant business, which he admits takes its toll and requires nonstop attention.
“We’re going out on a high note,” said Lemon, reflecting on his more than 30 years of owning a couple of San Clemente’s most popular breakfast and lunch spots. “We’re not closing because of lack of business; it’s just time. I’m so fortunate to have been born and raised in San Clemente. I love this town; it’s just time for someone else.”