DEBBIE HARDING STANDS next to a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, owned by her and her husband, Mike in front of their business on Broadway in Placerville. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

Secrets of Success 2012

Shoestring: Home of the pastrami burger and chili cheese fries

By From page SOS1 | December 31, 2012

Happiness is not just a destination. If one is wise, happiness is found along the journey. And that is key to the success at the Shoestring restaurant in Placerville.
Housed in a little yellow building, just feet from the pavement on Broadway, this old-fashioned burger joint evokes memories of the small town burger places of the mid-20th century.
“My dad, Richard Siegel, opened the first Shoestring in the San Fernando Valley in 1959,” said owner Debbie Harding. “When he passed, my brother took it over. He opened this one in 1989 (in Placerville) and I purchased it from him.”
The little restaurant has a rich heritage, with ties to Debbie’s uncle, who mentored the founder of the Carl’s Jr. Restaurant chain, as well as her father. To Debbie, working at the Shoestring is second nature to her. She grew up in the business.
When asked what the “Shoestring secret to success” is, Debbie said that love is at the heart of it all.
“You need to love what you do,” she said. “I love this business. I love the people who work here and the people who come here.”
One obvious key to success in the food industry is the food has to taste good. Shoestring is renowned for its chili dogs, chili cheese fries and pastrami burgers.
“We use the best possible ingredients,” Debbie said. “We don’t cut corners. And we listen to our customers. If something isn’t right, we fix it – right then and there.”
At the Shoestring, customer service takes on an additional meaning. Customers become friends. Debbie and her staff hear about weddings, births and even family funerals from Shoestring patrons.
“We get really close to our customers. This is a personal business,” she said. “We get to know our customers. We’ve seen so many over the years. They bring their children and grandchildren here. We are regarded as friends of their families.”
The Shoestring’s staff is equally important to Debbie.
“I feel they are the heart of my business,” she said. “Each one of my employees thinks of the Shoestring as their own. It’s fun to work here. We look at each other and we laugh.”
The Shoestring doesn’t have a Website. Yet, people love the little restaurant so much, it has a faithful, 21st century, five-star following on Yelp.
“People find us on Yelp all the time,” Debbie said. “They look up places to stop on their way to Apple Hill and Tahoe. We had one guy come through here recently, and he said, ‘That’s the BEST cheeseburger I’ve had in the last 20 years! I will be back.’ It makes me feel great when someone is so happy with our food.”
At the end of the day, Debbie feels that doing what you love is the key to happiness – and ultimate success – in life.
“We are a little hole-in-the-wall, but everyone loves us. We get regular calls and comments of praise,” Debbie said. “We started on a ‘shoestring,’ and we live on a shoestring, but at the end of the day, there’s not many jobs where you can get up and look forward to going to work every day.”
Shoestring is located at 1320 Broadway in Placerville. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 530- 622-7125.

Susan Laird

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