Spires Restaurant in Torrance, which has served as a gathering place for families and seniors for almost 50 years, will close to make way for two new eateries.
Spires’s last day is Friday, May 26.
Property owner Plaza Del Amo Properties, LLC, applied and received approval from the Torrance Planning Commission in August for a conditional use permit to build a two-tenant restaurant with outdoor dining at 21107 Hawthorne Blvd., where Spires is currently located.
The building that houses the restaurant will be demolished and two 2,479-square foot restaurants, each with 495-square foot outdoor dining areas, will take its place. At this time, no tenants have been identified by the property owner.
In the last few weeks, waves of regulars and occasional diners have streamed in to eat at Spires one last time before it permanently closes at 2 p.m. Friday. Many have brought flowers, balloons and cards to show the staff there their appreciation. Some have even inquired about purchasing the restaurant’s interior decor as a keepsake.
Among the grieving customers was Evelyn Dunn.
“It just breaks my heart that they can’t keep something that’s one of the few old-fashioned, what would you call, coffee house kind of family restaurants,” Dunn said recently, “in the sea of all of these fancy places that you can’t afford anymore.”
The 76-year-old resident has been a regular at the restaurant since it opened in 1977. She found its American diner-style menu high quality and reasonably priced.
After her kids were born, Dunn started taking them to eat at Spires as well, where the family often ran into her colleagues and neighbors, she said. Over time, they have developed a close relationship with other customers and staff at the restaurant.
“We’re all kind of like family,” Dunn said.
She recalled an incident where she ordered a vegetable soup from Spires while recovering at a hospital close to the restaurant, and the food came back with get-well messages written on its bag. When her grandson was born, a waitress from the restaurant visited him at the hospital, she said.
“It’s all the good stuff that we kind of miss in this world today. People touch each other, talk to each other and find out about their families,” Dunn said. “It’s just a wonderful experience.”
Restaurant owner Chris Haretakis, who has run the business for more than 30 years, said Spires has become a sort of “second home” to many customers.
“I’ve seen many generations of people grow up here. I’ve seen people get married, have kids, their kids grow up, and then they have kids,” Haretakis said. “The customers are family, the same as my staff is my family.”
Some of them have made it a habit to eat at the restaurant for breakfast and dinner every day. They even made it a point to call Haretakis to make sure there’s no hard feelings when unforeseen circumstances prevented them from coming in, he said.
“Every day I come to work, I recognize about 85% of the customers. They’re like either daily or (there) 3, 4 times a week,” Haretakis said. “And I think the reason we were able to maintain that loyal following is because it’s like a familiarity. People, when they come, they see the same friendly faces that they recognize and they feel comfortable.”
There are around 20 employees at the restaurant, Haretakis said. He said he hopes to migrate as many of them to another Spires restaurant about 3.5 miles away. That location, 1750 Sepulveda Blvd., will be the only remaining Spires branch in Torrance after Haretakis’s restaurant closes.
“It’s the old chicken and the egg syndrome,” Haretakis said. “Basically, if we can get business over there, then we can support bringing some staff from here to there, that’s our goal.”
Victor Sanchez, a manager at the restaurant, said it will be hard to say goodbye.
“A lot of familiar faces the whole seven years that I’ve been working here,” he said.
The restaurant is part of the small Spires chain that was founded in 1965. Greek immigrant John Haretakis, Chris Haretakis’s uncle, founded the first diner on the corner of Euclid Street and Ball Road in Anaheim.
From there, the elder Haretakis went on to open more than 30 locations in Southern California and even parts of Texas. But over the years, as locations and demographics changed, the number of Spires restaurants narrowed, the younger Haretakis said. A Long Beach branch shut down in 2019 to make way for a Starbucks and a Jack in the Box.
There are several other Spires in the area, though, including in Carson, Lawndale, Long Beach, Ontario and Tustin.
Family-friendly American diners like Spires are losing their appeal to fast-food joints, Haretakis said, as more young clientele choose convenience and speed over traditional dining.
“It’s sad,” Haretakis said, “but at the same time, we’ve had a great run here.”
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