Interview with Mike and Jennifer Towles, owners of Tole House Café in Etiwanda, Corky’s Kitchen & Bakery in Rancho Cucamonga, and Guasti Homestyle Café in Chino.

How did you start in the restaurant business?

We actually started the Tole House here in the Von’s Shopping center 9 years ago. Both of us had been working for corporate America and decided that we wanted to get out of that environment and go to work for ourselves. I used to sell radio advertising in the high desert area, and decided that the breakfast business was a good one to be in. One of my clients owned the 3 Molly’s Country Kitchen locations in Victorville, Apple Valley and Hesperia, so I went and talked to him and he gave me some good advice. We opened up in March of 1999, and have just continued to grow since then.

What is the story behind Corky’s?

That name is from my late grandmother, and that’s her picture on the front of the menu. She passed away about 10 years ago. She was from Oklahoma, and was a heck of a cook – I learned quite a bit from her. We use her recipe for biscuits and gravy – that’s one of our biggest sellers.

All the coffee mugs at Corky’s and Guasti are different. What’s the story there?

We like to get local businesses to advertise by donating their promotional coffee mugs. People also come in and donate mugs they have collected from all over the country. So you never know what you’re going to get.

With a developer coming in to redevelop the Guasti Village area near the Ontario Airport, you were forced to move the Guasti Café to Chino in recent months. How has that move worked out?

Are they leaving the old Guasti building, with its history?

No, it’s already been torn down, about three weeks now. It had a lot of history, but the building we’re in now actually is far older, built in 1923.

It’s so distinctive looking, almost like a castle with its unique masonry.

It was originally the home of the Gonzalez family, who was in the concrete fabrication business. They laid all the original sewer pipes for the city and the dairies, and they also made cement blocks, so they made their own custom blocks for the house. It’s a neat building, and it’s got a lot of character. We’ve made the various rooms into “theme” rooms, each with its own look – you’ve really got to see it!

Jennifer tells me you’re thinking about adding a lunch menu at Guasti Homestyle Café.

Yes, we’ve upgraded our equipment so that within the next month we’ll be able to offer lunch and breakfast items at all times.