To hear many Carpinterians tell it, for an actual great hamburger you had to wait until The Spot opened in 1958. Originally Sheri’s Café for about a half-dozen years previous to The Spot, the place was a tiny shed-like structure. Cecil and Garnet Hendrickson gave it its new name. They poured all of their know-how and love into the place. Quality meat, homemade fixings, and often open early in the morning and into the night, so long as there was a customer to serve.
The Hendrickson’s weren’t in business long, only five years, but they set a standard that subsequent proprietors have maintained to the present day. Even the original signs that the Hendricksons painted over those of Sheri’s Café look the same. Indeed, a mythos and mystique, or aura, has developed around the small stand.
The Hendricksons sold the business to Albert and Lorraine DeBus. They were there from 1963 to about 1970. It is interesting to note that at the present time, the wooden building looks the same, signs and all, to when the Hendricksons opened it. For that matter, it still looks like Sheri’s Café, the original burger place.
Next up at The Spot, the proprietors were Ken and Laverne Woods for the first half of the decade of the 1970s. Then, Bill Watson, a retired law enforcement officer who gave it a try for six months but found it too taxing for a retiree. According to Ted Barajas, Watson sold him the business over cocktails at the Palms for $15,000 in 1976.
Ted and Della Barajas took over and achieved a 22-year run at The Spot. The Barajas family added Mexican food to the menu and created most of the outdoor patio seating. When the covered patio was put in, there was a curious disconnect because it stood away from the restaurant, but perhaps this was in keeping with the property owner’s desire not to change the original structure of the stand that had proven to be so popular.
In an interview with the Carpinteria Herald in 1988, Barajas said he could measure his success by remembering the count of frozen meat patty boxes he ordered for the many burgers he had served over the years. He reached one million sold after 12 years. In regard to the oft-quoted story that renowned chef, and Montecito resident, Julia Child had praised The Spot’s burger as the best in California, Barajas set the record straight. He said that it was Cecil Smith, the L. A. Times TV critic, who wrote that The Spot burgers were the best. Child was a friend of Smith’s and had passed on The Spot’s high reputation to him, but Barajas doubted that Mrs. Child had ever actually eaten a Spot burger.
Currently, The Spot is owned by Jesse and Teresa Bustillos, the sixth proprietors in the line who have managed the business – seventh if Sheri’s Café is included in the count. They took over from the Barajas family in 1999. The Bustillos family, therefore, should soon have the longest proprietorship at The Spot. One look at the daily long lines in the middle of a terrible pandemic tells you that they will easily reach the 23-year mark, and be the new #1 in longevity.