After 18 years on Colorado Boulevard, Camilo’s California Bistro closed its doors because of rising business expenses and personal reasons, according to Camilo Gonzalez, one of the co-owners. The bistro, owned by Gonzalez and his wife Amelia Cordoba, had been open since 2000, serving brunch items as well as dinner entrees, wines and desserts.
The owners put a letter explaining their decision to close on the front door of the restaurant after closing.
“Unfortunately, good things come to an end. In the past few years, with all the operating costs rising, personal illness and complications, and the decline of business income, we are forced to close,” Gonzalez and Cordoba wrote. “The decision is beyond emotionally hard, especially knowing we truly loved what we did and gave it our all to keep our doors open.”
According to Gonzalez, it is very difficult in Los Angeles to run a small business due to the taxes, new regulations and rising costs. Business concerns aside, Gonzalez said that he was ready to close the restaurant. After 18 years in one location and two decades of experience in the restaurant business, it was simply time to slow down.
While rising business costs have affected how he and his wife have been able to run the restaurant, Gonzalez said that he sees neighborhood change in Eagle Rock as positive.
“There are people who have lived here a long time, it’s hard for them to see the change. They don’t agree sometimes,” Gonzalez said. “You have to realize also there is a lot of new young couples moving into the area. So it is evolving accordingly with the people that are moving in.”
One of the aspects of owning the restaurant that Gonzalez said he enjoyed most was his family’s increased involvement in the Eagle Rock community and the relationships forged with regular customers. According to Cordoba, Camilo’s was home to proposals and wedding receptions throughout the years. She said that there was even a 6-year-old girl crying the day of the closure because she did not want the bistro to close.
“We grew up with all the families in Eagle Rock. We became part of their families,” Gonzalez said. “We have so many friends now. And just seeing the kids growing up, it was a pleasure to see that. For the past three days, it has been very emotional. Today I’ve already cried like four, five times with families.”
According to Vic Parrino, the general manager of Colombo’s Italian Steakhouse — a restaurant that has been on Colorado Boulevard since 1954 — a restaurant’s involvement in its community is vital to its success.
“I think that when you’re a restaurant in a community like Eagle Rock or Highland Park, it’s important to invest in the community itself,” Parrino said. “You can’t just put up your sign, open your doors and expect people to come in if you don’t participate in the local chamber of commerce or different fundraising events and things like that.”
Gonzalez said that he attributes some of the restaurant’s success within the community to Occidental.
“Occidental College has been a big part of our success as well, not only with the students, but with the parents every time there is something, an event or whatever,” Gonzalez said. “The teachers and the professors and the staff over there, they come here almost every week.”
Associate Dean of the College for Curriculum and Academic Support Susan Gratch said she had been going to Camilo’s since it opened.
“Over the years since they’ve opened, we’ve gone there to interview candidates for positions, we have had lunches or meetings there, we’ve had a couple of department retreats, we’ve either met there for the whole retreat or went there at the end,” Gratch said. “And then the Dean’s Office — most recently last December — we had our end-of-the-semester gathering right before the holiday breaks, so I myself probably would only go about two or three times a year, but it’s over 15 years or so.”
While Camilo’s is now closed, the future of the building remains open. Brandon Harnsberger of Harnsberger Real Estate, the owner of the bistro’s former location, 2128 Colorado Blvd, said his family will not sell the building and that he does not yet know what they will do with it.
As for the future of the family, Gonzalez and Cordoba said they plan to go in different professional directions. While Gonzalez said that he plans to teach and possibly film cooking classes at his house, Cordoba said that she plans to move away from food and return to the corporate world.
Gonzalez said he has enjoyed his time as a business owner in Eagle Rock and is excited for what the future holds for the neighborhood.
“I love Eagle Rock, I’ve been living here for 25 years with my family and I see the changes for the better,” Gonzalez said. “And there’s a lot of more new restaurants coming in with wonderful food and different cuisines, you know, so I’m excited for the new generation of restaurants.”