They were showing up way before the doors opened Friday, for one last chance to eat at what one customer called part of Loma Linda’s “culture.”
Scheduled to open at 11 a.m. for one last time, Carole Inman, the owner of the Kool Kactus Cafe, was taking orders at least 15 minutes earlier than that. By 11:15 a.m., the line was to the door. Ten minutes after that, it was starting to curve around the building. And phone orders were coming at a rapid pace.
Closing your doors for good will do that to a business.
In actuality, the Kool Kactus closed its doors for good Oct. 26. But after an outcry from loyal customers, Inman arranged one final lunch service Friday.
“We just decided to close, but we should have closed and informed everyone,” Inman said before her tiny store was packed with customers. “We had a lot of calls from people that they wanted to see us open one more time.”
“I was mortified,” said Terri Kunihira, of Loma Linda. “Incredulous. We were all like, ‘What? No!’ This is a Loma Linda landmark, basically.”
“It’s not only a landmark, it’s a part of Loma Linda culture,” said Redlands’ Serena Chow, who was sitting with Kunihira while waiting for their food. “Where else do you get a tofu burrito?”
And they were a patient bunch. Many waited 10 to 15 minutes in a line to order, then up to 45 minutes for their food, as many people placed larger orders than normal. All as part of the long-time following Inman and her food has gathered in the region.
“My friend brought me over here one time, and I just became addicted to her food, because it’s so delicious,” said Kim Delcid, who lives in Yucaipa, but works nearby in San Bernardino.
The restaurant draws customers from around the region, and even had a food delivery truck that would make weekly stops at places such as the University of Redlands, ESRI and Redlands Community Hospital.
Based in a small former service station in Loma Linda for 23 years, the restaurant adapted its menu to the surrounding community. Besides favorites such as fish and shredded beef, the Kool Kactus offered vegetarian choices such as squash and spinach-mushroom dishes to cater to the Seventh-day Adventist community.
From that was borne a partnership with Redlands Community Hospital to develop healthier options, including brown rice and black beans.
The final lunch service ended an hour early, as about 2 p.m., Inman announced to the crowd that they were out of food.
Although the restaurant will be closed, Inman will continue cooking. She is going to be focusing her catering business, and will be developing a line of Kool Kactus spice rubs and sauces.
But that doesn’t mean that closing the doors was going to be easy.
“Very many regrets only because I’m not going to be seeing all my friends and customers and everybody,” Inman said. “After 32 years, it’s something I’m not going to be used to.”