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Exploring the hidden gems of El Cajon

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jan 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 12:51:50-05

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV)- 10News took a trip around El Cajon to visit some of the spots most cherished by locals.

The first stop was Summers Past Farms, right off Olde Highway 80. Here you can find a calm place to enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee and beautiful gardens.

"We get people from all over," said Owner Sheryl Lozier. "We together built the post-and-timber barn, planted all the gardens and we opened our gates to the community in 1992."

Lozier and her husband Marshall made it their mission to provide perfect gardens, free of charge, for the whole family to enjoy.


"Your inspiration to come out and visit would actually be to get some fresh air and to unwind and relax," she said.

The couple lives on the property in a 1940s cottage. They transformed their garage into their very own homemade herbal soap shop. They also have a gift shop on the site.

"It's just filled with everything you'd like to get for your mom, your sister, your best friend," said Lozier. "You’re right here in your community shopping local."

From birthdays to weddings, they host it all.

"Stay a while, just come and see what we’re doing at Summers Past Farms," said Lozier.

For the next stop, we didn't have to travel far. Right across the street from Summers Past Farms, you'll find Friends of Cats.

"I always tell people go across the street to Summers Past, then when you've had some coffee and donuts come see us," said Terry Hogan, a Friends of Cats volunteer for 30 years.

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The no-kill shelter was founded in 1929. Hogan said the cats are all relinquished by their owners. Approximately 70 cats of the 240 are up for adoption.

"Sit in the chair, sit on the floor, let the cat pick you," said Hogan. "The older cats are $30 dollars, the cats under eight, up to about a year, those are $80 dollars. And the kittens are $100 dollars."

The cats are microchipped, spayed and neutered before they leave the shelter. They also come with a free ten-day vet visit.

Or, you can simply come by and hang out with the curious cats, without making any commitments.

"The cozy cottage, this is where the lifetime care cats are," said Hogan as we took a tour of the facility. "We maintain these cats for life for people when they pass."

Next up was Marechiaro's Italian Restaraunt also on Olde Highway 80.

This family owned restaurant has been satisfying hungry customers for 64 years, 46 of those years in El Cajon.

"Making pizza is like riding a bike," said Owner Joe Brunetto. "You never forget how to do it."

"We got great food, we got a great reputation and we care about you," he said.

Brunetto took over his father's restaurant and he's keeping it in the family.

"My daughter's taken over now," he said.

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"It's really important that it stays in the family," said daughter Anna Brunetto James. "It is kind of a local secret spot."

Brunetto James has been the general manager for about a year.

"My goal here is 50 percent of making sure our customers are well taken care of so they feel like home," she said. "The other half is making sure my staff is happy and enjoy working here, because if they’re happy then our customers will be happy."

Marechiaro's has a full list of Italian entrees to choose from. But, the most popular item is the pizza.

"The pizzas the way we make them now, is the same way 60 years ago," said Brunetto James. "I think that's really cool."

If you're craving some barbecue, make your way over to the Wrangler Family Barbecue on El Cajon Blvd. The meats are slow cooked for 18 hours. The most popular item is the combo plate which includes beef, ham and spare ribs.

Owner JR Henderson has a real success story.

"I was here washing dishes, I start managing, then I bought the store," he said. That was in 2001.

"When I bought the store, I was scared, but I knew what I was doing," said Henderson.

Decades later, he's still doing it all.

"There's nothing I don't do," he said. "I wash dishes, I bus tables, I clean, I mop."

These are just four of the hidden gems, adding to life in El Cajon.