Following two years of rumors of its imminent demise, the end is near for Marie Callender’s Restaurant and Bakery on The Old Road in Santa Clarita. The eatery will close its doors on Dec. 29, employees were told earlier this week. The site, immediately adjacent to the Magic Mountain Parkway exit off Interstate 5, will be redeveloped to include two fast food outlets, including a McDonald’s, and a convenience store.
Marie Callender’s was the first establishment on what became Valencia Restaurant Row, followed by Wendy’s and El Torito Mexican restaurant. The site has long been a place to find a hot cup of coffee and piece of pie, first as Tip’s Coffee Shop, then J’s Coffee Shop, according to scvhistory.com, until the building was reconfigured and opened as a Marie Callender’s Family Restaurant in 1983.
“The landlord wants more rent, and I understand that,” said Greg Morin, who was hired by Don Callender as a dishwasher in 1972, worked at the at the Valencia Marie Callender’s from its opening, working his way up to become a general partner from 1990 to 2007. “In the 1990’s, the Valencia restaurant was the number one store in the chain.”
Marie Callender, a noted baker, launched her pie business in the early 1940s in Orange County, delivering pies to area restaurants. Her son Don opened the family’s first pie and coffee shop in 1964 in Orange and is credited with helping to create the concept of franchising restaurants.
The chain, which had 166 restaurants in 1999, now operates in 64 locations in five western states, mostly in California. The company has gone through multiple ownership changes since the family sold it to Ramada in 1986, aiming to put restaurants next to Ramada Inns. In 2011, its parent company, Perkins & Marie Callender’s Inc., based in Memphis, went through bankruptcy, and Marie Callender’s closed 31 restaurants.
While employees weren’t officially told of the Valencia closing until Dec. 20, the restaurant had been on month-to-month lease. In early December, J.R.’s Comedy Club, which had been based in the restaurant for 19 years, was told that their stay would end Dec. 23.
“It’s really sad to see it close,” Morin said. “I hired kids to work there in the ’80’s, some of whom ended up getting married, and then in the 2000s, I was hiring their kids.”