Celia Alfirevic in the garden area at Celia’s Garden Café, the business she Los Osos business she sold after 18 years. Photo by Theresa-Marie Wilson
After nearly 18 years a local restauranter is hanging up her apron following selling her popular Celia’s Garden Café in Los Osos.
“I kind of wanted to get rid of the restaurant by my birthday [August 15] this year, so it’s time,” said Celia Alfirevic, a resident of Los Osos for more than 30 years. “Ever since COVID, it has been a little bit of a struggle. I had plenty of flourishing wonderful years here, but it’s been a struggle. The beautiful thing is that we were open all through COVID and we made it and we continue to because our locals supported us.
“I love the serving part, and I love the food part. That’s what I’m going to miss. All the book work, being responsible for 14 people’s lives, their families, paying rent; I won’t miss that. When people work for you that long, there’s a real sense of friendship and you worry.”
This is the second time the little red cafe located at 1188 Los Osos Valley Road has changed hands since its beginnings as the Garden Cafe. Celia bought it in 2005. This December would have been 18 years at the helm as well as sometimes, cook, dish washer, busser, and hostess.
Celia has 50 some years in the food service industry. She learned the ropes at 15-years-old working summers at Pea Soup Andersen’s in Buellton. She worked predominately as a soup ladeler, but the knowledge of and love for the industry began then.
“The next summer or the summer after that, I gravitated into the main dining room and was trained as a waitress,” Celia said. “Waitressing is what got me through life for 40 or 50 years. Then I bought the restaurant and that’s carried me through another 18. I’ve been in and out of so many dining rooms and so many hotels. I’ve always loved the restaurant business. It’s always energized me regarding how I felt that day. I’d go into work, usually in some gorgeous place – a hotel on Maui or a nice restaurant in Santa Barbara – and I loved the art of flower arrangements, the fineness of the atmosphere and continued with it because I needed to support myself. It was very lucrative; I was able to move around and support myself for years. My parents never gave me a penny after the age of 18.”
Today, at 67, Celia and her husband, Mark, have a home in Los Osos and together they raised two daughters, now adults. When she walks out the door on her last shift on August 31, the keys will switch hands, but Celia will leave with the memories, the friendships formed and a heart full of gratitude.
“I want to thank the community for their support,” Celia said. “I want to thank them for constantly allowing us in their lives and letting us try to be a part of their day. I want to say thank you for that, and for allowing me to have a job for 18 years, right down the street from my house.”
The new owners are known for music promotion through their company Good Medicine as well as being the former owners of the SLO Brewing Company. Todd and Korie Newman, purchased the restaurant, it’s liquor license and the adjacent plot of land that was formerly Sage Ecological Nursery in hopes of creating more live music and dinning in Los Osos. (Meet the new owners next issue of Estero Bay News)
“They told me I have residency here, so I can come in and get my pancake or once they start to music. I might be able to get into one or two of the concerts for free. I don’t know the specifics at all. It will be exciting to see what they’re going to do. I don’t think they’re going to change the restaurant much, and the improvement they make will probably be positive.
“I’m happy for them. It’s like seeing someone have a new baby, you’re kind of jealous because you can’t go back and do it again. I’m around unavailable for as much as they need me and want to be. I’ll probably be here over Labor Day weekend. You know, hanging out and helping a little bit and just coordinate the staff.”.
Fans of Celia’s breakfast and lunch menu are likely aware of her now-famous apricot jam that is consistently requested at the restaurant. The best seller will still be available to purchase. Celia is embarking on plans to make and sell the much-loved toast topper at county farmers markets.
“I’m trying to get into a coastal market, but they’re all full or they have another jam vendor, and they won’t let me in,” Celia said. “But I’m on lists, and I’m trying really hard to get into Monday in Los Osos or Saturday morning at Madonna Plaza and Spencer’s markets. I’m a worker, and I love people. It’s a little physical on me because I have to set up a booth and break down at the end of the night, but I love the atmosphere, I love the people, and I’m doing well.”
For now, the jam will be available at the Paso Robles Farmers Market at the Downtown City Park on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Her first booth goes up Sept. 9.
After decades in the business, Celia offers words of wisdom to people starting out or starting new. “Don’t stop working. Every day is a new day. Keep a good attitude. Try and stay positive. It’s worked for me. Be friendly, be kind, and be loving. Be considerate, be conscious of other people, and all that goodness will come back to you.”
As for Celia, retirement means spending more time with her extended family who live in various parts of the country. She also plans to take weekend getaways with Mark, who still works fulltime in construction.