OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) -- For Oceanside resident and manager of Panca Peruvian restaurant Terra Wise, the road hasn't always been easy.
"When I started with Oile and Miguel, I had just gotten out from doing my third prison term and wanted to change. I was in rehab and someone there suggested I apply for this job, they said, 'You'd be perfect,'" Terra described.
That's when the owners of Panca restaurants, Oile and Miguel Montoya, entered her life eight years ago.
"The role was officially a cashier, working a couple days during the weekend then progressively I got more involved," Terra said.
And since then, the small restaurant nestled in an Oceanside shopping center felt more like work to Terra, and more like home.
"It's very important to have that type of relationship with everybody because you want to make it so that everybody comes to work and enjoys what they're doing," said the Oile Montoya. "I'm happy with everybody that works for us, they're really great people and I couldn't be more lucky."
After 8 years working together, Terra says the Montoyas taught her how to cook as if she was in culinary school and even provided Spanish lessons here and there.
"They've been involved my kids, they were at my wedding," Terra said.
But recently, her new version of home hit a speed bump like many other small businesses, when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
"The first week we actually closed down to figure out how we were going to manage and whether we were going to reopen," said Miguel Montoya.
To adjust, they minimized their menu, creating an online ordering option. They also added to-go items customers can freeze and eat, like their signature empanadas.
Just like the Montoyas were there for Terra, she wanted to be there for them.
"As their employee and manager, I want to try to help out anywhere I can," she said.
She's worked around the clocked and helped the Montoyas adjust to this new reality. She knows her new family will get through this, together.
"I know they're such good people and what we have at our restaurant is so special," Terra said.