Did you know the building of the iconic little burger shack, The Spot, was built in 1914? It’s one of the oldest buildings in Carpinteria, second only to The Palms. Though the building has stood for over 100 years, Jesse Bustillo, a self-proclaimed jeans and T-shirt kind of guy, is just its third owner.
Originally from Wisconsin, Bustillo is the child of a restaurateur. His childhood upbringing with a man in the food industry acts as a touchstone for running a burger stand. Well, that, and his experience from past jobs as a dishwasher, a McDonald’s employee, truck driver, wholesale food supervisor, and a stint in restaurant sales. Through one of his sales jobs he met the previous owner of The Spot.
“The Spot was a client of mine, and the owner just grew a liking to me,” Bustillo said. “He told me that one day I would own his restaurant.” Though flattered, Bustillo shook it off, remembering some of the stress his father experienced when running a restaurant. But, years later, The Spot owner retired and Bustillo gave in. He took over in 1999 with the promise to keep the beloved burger shack “as is.”
Bustillo has acquired other classic restaurants in the same way; by buying businesses from retiring owners who trust him to keep the old-school vibes intact. Bustillo’s portfolio now includes vintage eateries such as A-Burger and Buddy Burgers in Oxnard and Burger Barn in Camarillo. With a passion for nostalgia, Bustillo has kept his word. “I want to keep the old places alive.”
As for the best business advice he’s received, it’s hard to pinpoint: “I don’t know if anyone gave me advice. It’s been more about me taking over and doing my thing,” Bustillo said. “But I saw how my dad was nice to everybody, so I’m always nice to my employees and I invest in them. I like to keep up with their lives and ask about their day.” And it’s paid off. Three cooks have worked with him for over 15 years, and other employees have stayed around long after Bustillo took over businesses.
Fortunately, Covid-19 has not changed much when it comes to the walk-up burger stand. Outside seating is still available, though limited due to spacing guidelines, and social spacing is marked when you’re standing in line. Of course, the signature order-up-and-carry-out is still available for milkshakes, burgers or breakfast burritos on the beach. The Spot opens at 7:30 a.m. every day—don’t forget to bring your mask!
Staying true to The Spot’s unique personality while staying current in what matters is the key to success for Bustillo. “I try to keep up with the times by keeping it clean and not letting it get run down,” he said, reemphasizing that cleanliness is vital. Bustillo also recommended investing in professionals to fix what needs repair. “Other family restaurants try to fix things themselves, and you notice it.”
The advice he’d give to his younger self just starting out in the restaurant business is the same advice he gives to his employees today. “I always tell my managers to watch what I do and learn how I operate the business because one day, they may take over one of my restaurants.” His trade secret is a juicy one, spoken by a man who knows both the retail and wholesale sides of the restaurant business: “It’s important to educate yourself on food service, and double-check prices when purchasing wholesale goods,” Bustillo said. “Don’t just order food, then put the prices on the menu. You have to follow up and make sure you’re getting a fair price.”
The Spot is located at 389 Linden Ave.