Burger Stop, popular San Clemente hamburger joint since 1970s, to close its doors

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It's the end of an era for the popular Burger Stop in San Clemente as the staff and owners prepare to close Tuesday night. (KABC)

It's the end of an era for the popular Burger Stop in San Clemente as the staff and owners prepare to close Tuesday night.

The restaurant sits next to the post office on Avenida Pico, near Interstate 5. It looks more like a hamburger stand with patio seating. Many say it's not fancy, but that's its appeal.

"It's a good old-time burger stop," said John Ziegler, a San Juan Capistrano resident.

Ziegler and his wife Joyce have been coming for the cheeseburgers, fries and homemade onion rings since the 1970s, when the Burger Stop was called The Burger Palace.

"It's like what you make at home," Joyce said. "Not the stuff that's sitting under the heat lamps."

Built in the 1960s, it has had only two owners, and Nayer Henderson has owned it for the past 34 years.

"I put my heart, my soul in this place, and I love all my customers. They're like family, friends to me," Henderson said.

She met her husband at the restaurant, and their children have also worked alongside them.

The place is popular, but not just with locals. It was a favorite spot for one former president - Richard Nixon.

"The Secret Service would come by," Henderson said with a smile. "(The area) wasn't like this. It was all fields and the helicopter would land and pick the food up for him."

Henderson made some minor menu changes over the years to update it. A drive-thru was added in the 1980s. Customers had to pay in cash up until several years ago, when Henderson started accepting credit cards.

But she's about to face her biggest change yet. After serving for three decades, seven days a week, The Burger Stop is about to close.

"I've been crying pretty much almost every day. It's been very hard for me," Henderson said.

Henderson said it wasn't her decision. The change comes as part of a major construction project - the widening of Avenida Pico near the freeway. The Shell gas station next to her is already gone.

All that's left is the Burger Stop, and it's next to free up a right-of-way.

"It's sad," longtime customer Martin Eichmann said. "It's been here a long time and they're really good. Just tasty burgers, you know?"

Customers have left thank you cards and gifts on the counter as a way of expressing their gratitude.

"This represents an era of our beach community and how close we all are," resident Karen Conley said.

A young boy, who said he's been coming to the Burger Stop since he was nearly 3 years old, handed Henderson a card. She gave him the young kid a hug, thanking him and telling him she loved him.

Henderson said she's not sure what's next for her, but her customers give her comfort.

"I'm really, really going to miss them," she said.

The Burger Stop, located at 524 Avenida Pico, San Clemente, closes its doors for the final time on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Related Topics:
societyfoodhamburgerrestaurantI-5constructionSan ClementeOrange County
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