When asked to describe Santa Margarita, residents Jeff and Stacey Phillips don’t hesitate.
“Everything is community in Santa Margarita,” Stacey Phillips said. “I loved our children going to school there. People are tight there.”
The community consists of a cluster of homes on either side of Highway 58, with several shops and restaurants along the main drag. The town remains the same 0.5-square-mile area that was first planned in 1889, landlocked by the Santa Margarita Ranch, according to the Santa Margarita Historical Society.
The Phillipses have lived outside of town for about 35 years on land that’s been in their family since the 1930s. Their address is in Santa Margarita, but they’re only about two miles from the even tinier community of Pozo, which boasts the infamous Pozo Saloon.
Growing up, their four children rode their bikes to the back entrance of Santa Margarita Lake and worked on the family’s ranch, which currently contains a cow-calf operation, dozens of egg-laying chickens, as well as pigs, horses, ducks and geese.
“When we first moved out here, we were on a party line telephone with five or six other people,” said Jeff Phillips, 58. “If you saw one to two cars a day driving down the road, that was a lot.”
Added Stacey Phillips, 55: “Now just about everyone works in town.”
“Town” refers to multiple areas including Atascadero, where Stacey Phillips works for the Atascadero Unified School District, and Templeton, where Jeff Phillips works for Delta Liquid Energy.
The couple remembers when downtown Santa Margarita had Frosty’s Market, then Donati’s True Value Hardware (now the site of The Porch Cafe).
Santa Margarita has two other restaurants: The Range, a laid-back steakhouse, and The Southern Station, which recently started offering dinner in addition to breakfast and lunch.
Other noteworthy happenings include new operating hours for the Santa Margarita Library (now open Saturdays!).
Jeff Phillips said he’d love to have another hardware store in town, as well as a pizza joint. The couple also said there’s been talk for years about trying to bring a swimming pool to the community, but that idea hasn’t materialized.