Customer friendly, familiar faces talk about private sector service

Manny Bernal at Charo Chicken in Seal Beach. Photo by Chris MacDonald

You may have known some of them longer than your spouse. They’re the incredible friendly faces that have greeted you for years at area eateries. These are multi-talented people, who can cook, run the cash register, offer excellent customer service and do about everything.

At a time when there never have been more “Help Wanted” signs on businesses, I wanted to ask a few hard-working folks one reason they’ve done their jobs so well at the same place(s) for decades.

“The customers. They’re my good friends. I know many on a first name basis,” said Chris Santana, who has been at Nick’s Deli on Main Street, Seal Beach, for 35 years. “Everyday, I look forward to seeing them come in.”

“I have a great owner who treats us right,” said Manny Bernal a fixture for 26 years at Charo Chicken on Main. Manny met his wife, Aileen, there and she has been employed at that Charo as well as the one in Huntington Beach for 24 years. Both are managers.

Carlos Carmona, who’s always smiling, has been at Athens West in Seal Beach and Huntington for over 16 years. “The owner’s really nice and treats us like family,” he said. “I treat guests the way I like to be treated.”

“The work hours are flexible,” said Vance Goodman, who, for more than 27 years, has delivered pizza to Surfside, Sunset Beach and elsewhere. The Pizza Hut driver also is an accomplished artist and photographer.

“I love my employees,” said Judy Bash, manager at Del Taco on Warner in Huntington. “They’re like family to me!” She has worked at the same location for 48 years!

Sinh Vinh, a 37-year veteran at Gong’s Chinese Food on Warner in Huntington, said: “Watching kids grow up, then bring their kids here has been such a rewarding experience,” said the kind gentleman, whose wife, sons, brother and relatives all help Gong’s prosper.

Paul Gauweiler, who has performed his “magic” for nearly 50 years at The Cake Box on Warner in Huntington, said, “I really love to bake.” The Master Pastry Chef’s creations have been enjoyed by guests at Disneyland’s Club 33, the Anaheim Ducks, American Idol participants and Olympic Gold Medal Diving Champion, the late Dr. Sammy Lee, who was a regular customer. His baumkuchens (tree cakes) are world famous and his desserts have been enjoyed by American Military stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“The owner lets me run this as my own shop, which gives me so much satisfaction,” said James Heins, a manager at Subway on Warner in Huntington. He has worked for the company over 13 years.

Yuri Castrejon, an employee at Subway on Edinger Ave., in Huntington, said she really appreciates the schedule flexibility, which allows her time to help her young daughter after school. “Another real plus is that I can sometimes walk to work,” said the always cheerful, appreciative 10-year employee.

“I like to serve people and make them happy,” said Vicente Rodriguez, the friendly, 23-year manager at Steve’s Charburger on Warner in Huntington.

Grateful customers look forward to seeing these familiar faces, who have worked in the area for more than 300 years.