While numerous businesses were negatively impacted by the pandemic, others were able to persevere, starting new business ventures in a difficult year.
Among the newcomers is Teriyaki Rice Express, at 20655 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country, the first restaurant for co-owner Guillermo Dominguez and his partners.
He and the other two co-owners didn’t plan to start a restaurant during a pandemic. Instead, they already had secured a location and were working to prepare it for opening when the pandemic hit, which significantly slowed their progress.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” Dominguez said of the pandemic. “We were paying rent for seven or eight months without opening. … It was very difficult.”
Since it was finally able to open in September, the business has been slowly gaining recognition in the community, and has been somewhat unfazed by the changing dining restrictions, as the locale only has a handful of tables.
“We’re doing pretty good,” Dominguez added. “We’re getting more and more customers, and we’ve gotten some great reviews (online).”
Restaurateur Chris Lee, who owns Deep Sea Poke, 27530 Newhall Ranch Road in Newhall, formerly known as Poke to Me, started not one, but two new restaurants this past year.
Tento, a Japanese-Korean street food restaurant at 18519 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country, opened earlier this year, offering a simple, but unique menu, with a variety of musubi rice balls, takoyaki and Korean-style corn dogs.
Now, Lee is in the midst of opening his fourth restaurant, a unique take on Korean barbecue, which he hopes will be ready by next month.
Over in Valencia, husband and wife Joel and Jennifer Gonzalez took advantage of the pandemic slowdown to open their own Hummus Republic franchise in the old King Kogy location at 28108 Newhall Ranch Road.
With Joel Gonzalez’s work in the film industry halted, he had some time on his hands and began looking for a franchise, settling on Hummus Republic, which he said he saw as an up-and-coming food trend.
“I felt like it would be a good idea for Santa Clarita,” he said, adding that there aren’t many restaurants of the sort here locally.
The Gonzalezes live right up the street and saw the shopping center, near the intersection with Rye Canyon Road, as the perfect location.
It was the Gonzalezes’ first time opening a restaurant, which they said came with a learning curve, but they were able to finally open their doors just three weeks ago.
Challenge finding help
While customers are enjoying the food and the restaurant has been doing well, their biggest challenge has been finding help, like many other businesses in the service industry that have continued to face challenges building staff back up, as many workers have been slow to return.
Though they didn’t completely need to start from scratch, Impulse Music Co., at 21515 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country, took on a renovation and rebranding in the midst of the pandemic in the summer of last year.
“With the pandemic, things weren’t going to change quickly, so (we did it),” social media manager Leire Baztarrica said. “It was a crazy idea, and honestly, at the beginning, we didn’t know if we’d be able to stay afloat … it was really challenging.”
Formerly Keyboard Galleria Music Center, a 30-year music establishment in Santa Clarita, co-owner C.J. Hockenbury purchased the store in 2019.
On Aug. 1 of last year, Impulse Music Co. reopened, and Baztarrica focused on building the store’s online presence, which became evidently important amid the pandemic.
Since then, the store has begun the slow return to “normal” operations, reinstating in-person music lessons in November with the hopes to continue expanding as they fully reopen.