The Cambrian

Coast Union graduate stakes his claim to future in restaurant business

From left, Alex de Alba joins his mother, Berta de Alba, and partners Sarah and Mauricio Lopez, in front of the Cambria Pub & Steakhouse, which is undergoing an expansion under their new ownership and is likely to get a new name.
From left, Alex de Alba joins his mother, Berta de Alba, and partners Sarah and Mauricio Lopez, in front of the Cambria Pub & Steakhouse, which is undergoing an expansion under their new ownership and is likely to get a new name.

It’s always heartwarming when a “local kid makes good,” and it’s even better when those successes are accomplished on home turf, as super-achieving 21-year-old Alex de Alba has done.

At Coast Union High School, he was president of the Associated Student Body, co-president of Rotary’s Interact Club, president of Coast’s California Scholarship Federation and student representative for two years on the Coast Unified School District Board of Trustees — the trustees were so impressed with his contributions, they made an exception to the one-year term restriction just so de Alba could serve again.

Since he graduated in 2014 in the top 10 in his class:

▪  De Alba graduated from Cuesta College with associate degrees in business and economics.

In the process, he became a very visible face of the college, according to his proud-of-him high school counselor Cheryl Seay.

“His picture has been on the cover of the Cuesta handbook for the past two years,” she said, “and he’s in their commercials on TV.”

▪  He’s a junior at Cal Poly now, carrying a full load of 12 credits this quarter, studying business administration with a concentration on entrepreneurship. De Alba plans to graduate in June 2018.

▪  He’s an active Realtor with the Real Estate Company of Cambria, a job “I plan to do forever. I love it,” he said during a series of interviews. Then, with the de Alba twinkle in his eye, he added, “maybe someday I’ll own that company. … I think I’ll own a lot of businesses in the future.”

Seay said de Alba is “very charismatic, very genuine. When he gets passionate about something, it’s infectious.” So, when high-schooler Alex was assigned to enlist business participation in the first campus “career fair,” Seay said, “we sent him to the Real Estate Company.

“They hired him. It’s the ‘de Alba effect.’ 

Restaurant business

Now he’s also a managing partner in the Cambria Pub & Steakhouse, fully invested in every aspect from adding to the dinner menu and managing staff to helping to remodel an adjacent unit on the corner of Burton Drive and Center Street (where the Seeker’s gallery was for so many years).

The addition will become the Pub’s new, ground-level dining room, which the partners estimate will seat from 40 to 50 diners and provide easier access for some people who might find it difficult climbing the stairs to the Pub’s upstairs room, which will be reserved for special events and private parties.

The restaurant endeavor “is going to be pricey,” de Alba said, “about $300,000 for the business and inventory and renovation,” including about $30,000 for the renovation.

The partners plan to change the Pub’s name into “something similar but different,” de Alba said. “We’re taking suggestions and community feedback before we make a firm decision.”

The Pub’s menu will stay the same, according to Mauricio Lopez.

“Just the dinner menu is going to change. (It will be) more like a dinner house and steakhouse.”

De Alba said they’ll be “adding a good variety of items for our vegetarian friends,” and doing away with a credit-card fee charged by the previous business managers.

The steakhouse is currently open only Fridays and Saturdays, but will be open seven days a week when the expansion is complete, something de Alba estimates will happen within two months.

The “de Alba effect”

His real estate job led to his Pub partnership, he said. He alerted Mauricio and Sarah Lopez when the Black Cat restaurant went on the market. They bought it.

“That’s where we met,” de Alba said. “Then, about nine months later, they came to me and said they wanted to buy a house.”

And where does de Alba get his ambition, his energy, his over-the-top nice factor?

He credits his mom, Berta de Alba, who came to the U.S. about 25 years ago on a vacation visa. She met and married Guadalupe de Alba, a cook at Creekside Gardens. But he was killed in an auto accident south of Cambria when their son was 30 months old.

Berta de Alba is “my blessing, my angel on earth,” Alex de Alba said. “My dad is my angel in heaven, so I have two angels taking care of me.”

She “showed me the importance of working hard,” he said. “She’d get up before we would, go to clean a house, come home, make us breakfast, take us to school, throw laundry from work into the washer, go back to work, pick us up from school and take us to whatever house she was cleaning next. It was important for her to have a job where we could go with her and be helping out. Even with all that, she always made time to go to my soccer games, school meetings. She’s been a key player in everything I’ve done.”

Now, “I’m very thankful for being able to help her out a lot financially,” her son said quietly.

Then de Alba reverted to his usual effervescent self, thanking the community for “always helping me. If it wasn’t for every person I’ve encountered in my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I love being a local Cambrian and hope to live here forever. I love giving back to my community, and I expect to continue to do so for the rest of my life.”

Cambrian Managing Editor Stephen H. Provost contributed reporting for this story.