Café Lorel Celebrates 10 Years

Gabriela Medina
LORELLA DELEON, left, celebrates Café Lorel’s 10th anniversary with the prior owner, Rhiannon Acree of Cambrian Homecare.

Finding new places to dine at is not always easy. Although knowing that certain restaurants and cafés provide great service and fresh quality products is an advantage. A place that offers both, is Café Lorel on Pacific Coast Highway at Los Altos Plaza. It is the place to go to for your breakfast and lunch cravings.

It is no wonder why Café Lorel has just hit its 10-year anniversary – its food and customer service are both unforgettable. Lorella Deleon is the founder and CEO of the operation and it is because of her that Café Lorel remains so successful.

Deleon explained, “I’ve always wanted a cafe. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and everyone has their own shop. Back in the 80s and my parents had a fish and chips shop when we were in England and then when we came here, we had a restaurant and then a convenience store. So, we’ve always had that in the family.

“All of my uncles and aunts have all been in the restaurant business. I have some [family business] in Europe, some in Utah, one in San Diego, and one in Riverside. We are a close family, but we have different businesses.”

After her parents passed, their shops were sold leading her to find a job in medical insurance where she worked for over 23 years. In 2008, the company faced hardships and the majority of its employees had to be laid off, including Deleon.

Unemployment discouraged her, for it was her first time. The overwhelming feeling left her anxious, so she started to bake cookies from home and began selling them at a local farmers market in Orange County.

“I was going to eight or nine different markets a week and it was really hard – setting up the tents and pulling them down, sometimes in the rain. I really wanted my own place and that’s when I started looking,” Deleon said. “My brother – who was alive at the time – happened to stumble on this café and we went to look at it.

I acquired it from Rhiannon Acree and that was probably the best thing I ever did. I’m a little older now so I don’t want to start another café. If I was younger, I probably would have had about two or three more by now,” she chuckled.

Acree is the founder and CEO of Cambrian Homecare, located across the street. She had purchased the shop as a place for her employees to have healthy lunches. However, she realized that owning it was difficult to maintain on top of her busy schedule.

“I think she let it go because she had a lot on her plate, so she put it up for sale and I happened to find it. I continued many of her recipes and I incorporated a lot of my own. I added things like homemade soups, different salads and a lot more sandwiches.

“All of our food is super healthy. There is no frying. We try to offer lower calories and foods people would enjoy, like our fresh bagels and croissants. We have a lot of healthier items including vegan sandwiches and veggie sandwiches,” Deleon said.

Aware that she would make more income working in medical insurance, she found her true happiness in owning her café. The environment she has built between her customers and her staff is heartwarming and comforting. She enjoys listening to her customers and the overall interaction with them makes her beyond appreciative of their loyalty, especially during the pandemic.

She decided to change the Friday menu to include more homestyle meals such as chicken pot pie, lasagna and slow-cooked tri-tip sandwiches.

 “A lot of our customers are Cambrian employees. With the help of them and other loyal customers, they kept us going. They would go out of their way to call in for food and come for their curbside pickup to make sure we stayed open. We never shut our doors once and I can honestly say that I made a lot more money during COVID. It was wonderful.”

Feeling so blessed to have been in business for 10 years, she hopes that her manager, Nicole Smith, will keep Café Lorel open, thriving and even expanding locations after she retires in the next eight to 10 years. She is confident that Nicole will do great and trusts her to keep their customers returning with her outstanding work ethic and skills. She even sees her as her second daughter.

Lorella Deleon is a passionate woman about her career. Her family leadership has allowed her to love doing what she does and has formed a second family at Café Lorel. The welcoming place is not just about its delicious and nutritious food, but the hearts that are behind the people making it.


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