By Rylee Holwager and Perry Smith
Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, honored chef Daniel Otto’s restaurant The Old Town Junction as December’s Small Business of the Month with a Senate resolution Friday at the restaurant.
Glasses clinked and forks dinked inside The Old Town Junction in Newhall for the recognition ceremony earlier this month.
“I feel really honored,” said Otto, “I appreciate you for accommodating us, having this opportunity. I want to thank our community and all our dignitaries or leaders out here for giving us the opportunity to open up a great place to serve all of our people, so I couldn’t do it without this amazing team and obviously the support of the community.”
Wilk has been giving out the Small Business of the Month recognition for 10 years now, since he was elected into the state Assembly in 2012.
However, the story of Old Town Junction’s location goes back much farther, to a time when Newhall’s Main Street was in its early development.
In fact, the location’s history includes a tale that exemplifies the enduring spirit of California entrepreneurs, and how they’ve been able to adapt to challenges throughout the state’s history.
Albert Swall constructed the two-story brick building that houses Old Town Junction at the intersection of Market Street and what was then Spruce Street in 1914, according to the restaurant’s website, after Swall’s landlord, Wiliam Mayhue, raised the rent on his general store.
A number of other business owners at the time followed Swall’s lead, and Spruce Street became the Main Street that we know of today. In order to catch as much as the foot traffic as possible from the nearby Railroad Avenue train station that was by his old location, Swall built am oversized “Drugs” sign to help advertise his wears.
The façade was damaged in the 1971 earthquake, and the occupants have changed over the years,but the location has been home to one of Santa Clarita’s most popular restaurant options since its grand opening in 2018.
“The reason for that is you really have to respect someone who’s an entrepreneur in California,” said Wilk. Being an entrepreneur in California can provide unique challenges because of the high taxes and excessive regulation that small businesses face, he added.
“This incredible establishment here, which is really in my opinion, is the anchor of Old Town Newhall,” Wilk said.
When asked what influences his culinary choices at the restaurant, where the menu includes everything from a 40 oz hand cut prime tomahawk steak to chilean seabass to a Maple Leaf Farms duck breast, Otto said “sustainability, learning and growing with the trends and staying passionate and creative.”
His goal for customer is to create “seasonal cuisine, keeping people’s pallets guessing,” and creating an experience and not staying stagnant.”
Otto and the Old Town Junction team have supported the Santa Clarita community in many ways, he said during his recognition. They have worked and contributed to College of the Canyons Foundation, Carousel Ranch, Circle of Hope, Wish Foundation, SCV Charity Chili Cook-Off and Feed SCV.
“When you think of somebody who partners with our nonprofit community, I can’t think of anyone who has been a better partner than Chef Otto,” said Wilk.
In addition to Wilk, Santa Clarita City Council members Laurene Weste and Bill Miranda, a representative for Congressman Mike Garcia and a representative for county Supervisor Kathryn Barger were in attendance and presented certificates of recognition.
“I love Chef Otto’s food, I love the restaurant,” Weste said to Otto, “I am so proud of you.”