Serving up a new store: Longtime Encinitas McDonald’s owners rebuilding restaurant

From+left%2C+Ann+Schulz%2C+husband%2C+Kris%2C+and+son%2C+Matt%2C+co-own+the+McDonald%E2%80%99s+franchise+with+Matt%E2%80%99s+wife%2C+Ericka+%28not+pictured%29.+The+eatery+near+Encinitas+Boulevard+and+El+Camino+Real+will+soon+reopen+after+a+2011+fire+destroyed+the+building.+%28Photo+by+Scott+Allison%29

From left, Ann Schulz, husband, Kris, and son, Matt, co-own the McDonald’s franchise with Matt’s wife, Ericka (not pictured). The eatery near Encinitas Boulevard and El Camino Real will soon reopen after a 2011 fire destroyed the building. (Photo by Scott Allison)

Helen Hawes

Jennifer Howard remembers special days back in the in the late 1970s, when, as a first-grader, she went to birthday parties at the McDonald’s up on the hill on Encinitas Boulevard. The fast-food restaurant became a part of her everyday life as she continued to go there for lunch and snacks as an adult, especially since she worked at the CVS drugstore nearby. So she was in shock when the restaurant from her childhood, which had been in operation for about 35 years, burned down two years ago due to a gas leak.

Howard happened to be at CVS when she saw the firetrucks on the night of Sept. 1, 2011. She watched from the sidelines as her favorite McDonald’s went up in flames.

“It was devastating and heartbreaking,” she said. “It had always been there; it was part of our lives.”

Even though she was aware that the franchisees, the Schulz family of Encinitas, had several other restaurants, Howard felt badly for them. She felt an additional connection because, when she was a teenager, she studied drama under the direction of Ann Schulz at Coast Kids Theatre, a longtime local children’s theater company.

“That’s their business, that’s their baby, that’s their income; so you want them to have that back,” Howard said.

Kris Schulz, who owns and operates the store with his son, Matt, mirrored her sentiment when he said that community support was overwhelming. Because Schulz family members live in Encinitas, they see customers all the time.

“People would stop us at the gas station or at the bank, and ask, ‘When are you going to rebuild, how soon is it going to start?’” Kris Schulz said.

Matt Schulz was unable to comment as he, his wife, Ericka, and son, Greyson, were busy welcoming a new baby girl, named Amalisa, into the world.

Though the operation is a family affair, Schulz said they pride themselves most on their employees. When the original store was destroyed, they placed most of the staff at their other restaurants. Sixteen of the employees will be returning to the rebuilt store. The manager for the Encinitas Boulevard location has been with them for 13 years.

“I think what is really charming is that we’re now seeing people who worked for us when they were in high school; they’re coming back in with their own children,” Schulz said. “And we’ve even seen one grandchild who is coming back to visit the store where grandpa worked.”

The location remains the same, but in contrast to the old store, the new restaurant rests on a standalone pad and has double drive-through windows. The interior decor has been designed to serve the patrons who have historically dined there. There will be a computer wall to keep the children amused. For the seniors, there will be a quiet corner designed so they enjoy their coffee klatsches together. The centerpiece of the restaurant will be a community farm table that can seat a large group, several small ones or individuals who just want to share a meal.

The Schulz family owns six McDonald’s stores: two in Encinitas, two in Carlsbad and two in Oceanside.

The new McDonald’s is scheduled to open in mid-November at its old location up on the hill at 1271 Encinitas Blvd. The grand opening is scheduled for the beginning of December.

Jennifer Howard said she plans to be there.

Helen Hawes is a North County freelance writer