Los Angeles

Orange County Couple Celebrates 50 Years of Business and Culture

The couple decided to open a bakery in Orange, working from dusk till dawn and switching from the bakery to the restaurant.

Eleanor and Harvey Moreno always held fast to their Mexican heritage, and in many ways, they are living proof that hard work pays off.

With their Orange County bakery's recent 50th anniversary celebration, which marked half a century of making the kind of Mexican delicacies that connect them to so many people, they took a look back at when it all started.

At the time, Eleanor was a nurse and Harvey a Rockwell engineer. But with his layoff in the 1960s, they decided to go back to their inherent family talents, talents that came from Harvey's grandfather who was a baker.

"I can still picture his grandfather. He was strong, and he would be back there chopping wood," said Eleanor. "And then, he would bake the bread, and we could smell the bread."

In the community of El Modena, no one had heard of pan dulce, a sweet Mexican bread that is a staple and tradition south of the border.

So, the couple decided to open their own bakery in Orange, while also serving a few Mexican dishes on the side. Working from dusk till dawn, switching from the bakery to the restaurant.

The couple saw potential in an abandoned but historic Quaker church, so they decided to buy it and eventually turn it into a banquet hall.

"It was pretty run down, there were pigeons living in the rooms," said Eleanor.

They converted what was a Sunday school into a restaurant and added enough seating for 600 people.

Moreno's Restaurant had connected with the community and received much praise.

In 1988, their hard work was singled out by then presidential candidate George Bush who made a campaign stop at their restaurant. On a national stage, the future president applauded all that the Moreno's stood for.

"And I want to salute all of the Moreno family for emphasizing and giving us a great example of what family, pulling together and risk taking is all about," said Bush.

Now, three generations of Morenos are celebrating 50 years in business, a business that allows them to give and connect with others and a connection that has rubbed off on their own children, as well.

Their daughter Linda raises money to help patients at the Lestonnac clinic, the only free clinic in Orange County.

"It really hits the heart when we do these kinds of things and fundraisers and realize what a great feeling it is," said Linda.

The money the Morenos raise pays for equipment and medical procedures.

"You know if you need an MRI or a CAT scan, you don't want to put it off because you're talking about a person's life," said Ed Gerber executive director of Lestonnac Clinic.

Back on Chapman Avenue, the Morenos said they never expected their Hispanic heritage would lead them to connect with so many.

Building upon half a century of local history.

"I'm overwhelmed. I can't explain. I'm just so happy," said Harvey.

Moreno's restaurant will be hosting a "Dia de los Muertos" party in October and said the money raised from the event will go to charity as it always has.

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