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Winchell's shuttering its doors after 35 years in El Centro

January 28, 2001|By RICHARD MONTENEGRO, Staff Writer

Every day for 10 years, Antonio Tijerina has walked from his home on Euclid Avenue in El Centro to Winchell's Donut House for a cup of coffee and a donut, something he will no longer be able to do after next week.

Come noon Wednesday, after more than 35 years, Winchell's will close and permanently lock the doors to its El Centro shop on Imperial and Euclid avenues.

"I'm upset," Tijerina said. "I've been coming every day. I live a half block up (the street). It was easy for me.

"Besides, the bread is pretty good," he added.

The El Centro Winchell's, 700 N. Imperial Ave., is just one in a number of stores in the company's chain being closed Wednesday, El Centro store manager Alma Estrada said Friday.

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While new stores will continue to be built by the national chain, Estrada said Winchell's donut shops in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas are the primary targets of the corporate closures because of poor sales.

Of the El Centro closure, Estrada said, "The population's not as big here, and we have lots of competition now."

Estrada, who has managed the El Centro store for eight years and has been with Winchell's for 14 years in all, said rumors of a closure dated back six or seven months.

However, she said the final decision came from her area supervisor just three weeks ago.

Six workers will lose jobs, including three part-timers and three full-time workers.

"I'm not saying I'm going to lose my job. I can go to another store," Estrada said, "But what I feel most is for my employees. It's going to be hard for everybody."

Berta Jimenez, 55, has worked at Winchell's part-time for nine years.

She said she will be sad to see the donut shop go, not only because she will have to find another job but because the store had been part of El Centro since 1963.

Working two part-time jobs for the last year and a half out of necessity, Jimenez said she will start searching for work next week.

"This is very bad. I feel very bad," Jimenez said.

Estrada said she and some of the other workers have already been offered jobs at other Winchell's Donut Houses.

She said representatives from the El Centro Vons visited the store last week to offer Estrada and some of her workers jobs in the bakery department. Other local bakeries and businesses have done the same.

Still, not all six employees have been offered work, she said.

When asked how the news of the closure was broken to her regular customers such as Tijerina, Estrada started to tear.

"I prefer not to talk about it with customers," she said, adding, "I'm losing part of my life here."

Staff Writer Richard Montenegro can be reached at 337-3453.

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