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BEFORE the pandemic Heather was a started-from-the-ground-up administrative working at the much lauded Nashville fried chicken joint in Chinatown, Howlin’ Rays. But in these radical times with everyone in the industry either restructuring to accommodate to the novel coronavirus or dying off, Heather has found herself with suddenly with much more time on her hands; time to reflect, time to be with family, time to explore the elements of our lives that stand out the most. One of Heather’s favorite restaurants in her hometown is Cafe Zack, run by family patriarch Hector Gomez. For Hector, and Junior who’s just now learning the ropes, this business is all in the family.

So who are you, Hector?

My name is Hector Gomez. Since 2000, I have owned and operated Cafe Zack — a small, independent restaurant located on Thompson Boulevard right here in the heart of Ventura. Over the years I have had the privilege of serving many members of Community Memorial Hospital’s extended family. In a way, I feel like we’ve all grown up together which is why I am so deeply honored to be speaking with you today.

How are things going lately?

All of us at Cafe Zack feel incredibly lucky to have received so much love and support from our community throughout the entire COVID crisis. It truly has been a blessing. I am happy to announce that we recently opened a brand-new outdoor seating area which has allowed us to welcome guests back to the restaurant for the first time since March. Due to social distancing requirements, we are only able to operate at half of our regular capacity which has brought its own set of difficulties — but we are learning to adapt and I have never been more optimistic about the future.

Has your business changed since COVID-19?

The short answer is that my business has changed in EVERY way imaginable. Nothing could have prepared us for the many challenges we faced as the COVID crisis began. In an effort to keep our doors open, we began offering take-out and no-contact delivery back in March. At that point, we had no idea if Cafe Zack would even make it — things did not look particularly good. But little by little, word spread and our phones began to ring. With every take-out order, our chances of survival increased. Thanks to the incredible community of Ventura, we’ve not only been able to keep our heads above water but we were actually able to expand through the renovation of our outdoor patio area.

One of the greatest blessings in all of this came quite unexpectedly — Cafe Zack was one of the restaurants chosen by Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen to prepare meals for Ventura’s tireless frontline workers at Community Memorial Hospital. We have always felt a deep, personal connection to this wonderful little beachside town — I moved to Ventura almost 30 years ago and this is where my wife and I chose to raise our children — so I cannot begin to tell you what a privilege it has been to able to take care of those who have taken such good care of us over all these years. World Central Kitchen is a first-class organization and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them. Looking ahead, our business still faces many unknowns but I am comforted by the fact that the good people of Ventura have always been there for us and, in turn, we look forward to returning the favor.

Venice, CA
est. 2018

(for take away); We focus on the passions and aspirations of people working in the service industry. Each printed issue tells the stories and exhibits work from the good folks at one particular restaurant.