Photographs by Anne Hiles

The Metaphor Café

Gloria Valdez Ignites a Beacon of Light in Downtown Escondido.

By Beth Ross | Feb - March 2006

I sat down to meet with Gloria Valdez, the new owner of “The Metaphor Café,” located in Escondido at 258 E. Second Avenue. She is a petite, middle-aged woman full of energy, beaming with pride at her accomplishment, even after all of the stress and setbacks that came along with it.

Before purchasing The Metaphor, Valdez was an orthopedic nurse for nine years, in addition to later becoming a bar owner in Downy for another eight. When she bought her first bar it was the worst of its kind in the area, but when she was finished remodeling it became one of the best and most popular pubs in Downy.

Jim Nemish owned The Metaphor for about 16 years, before selling the café to Gail May Calhoun. Calhoun only owned the place for under a year due to poor management. When Valdez purchased the property from Calhoun the place was in horrible condition. There were holes in the floor, the kitchen wasn’t even separated –it was one big mess.

Valdez cleaned and remodeled, celebrating with a grand opening that garnered a large turnout. She covered both pool tables with free food, and all customers had to do was purchase a drink to get in on the feast.

Only two weeks into her ownership, city officials abruptly closed The Metaphor for property violations, which Calhoun neglected to mention when selling the establishment. Thus began the grueling process of getting the café back up and running.

Valdez was forced to refinance her home to pay the fines and penalties. According to Valdez, shortly thereafter Gail Calhoun began stalking the Valdez family, as well as embezzling money from café bank accounts.
Karaoke, chess, pool tables, live music almost every night; a warm atmosphere, fine dining, and diabetic friendly entrées; all trademarks of the new Metaphor –it’s quickly becoming one of Escondido’s hottest night spots

The delusional Calhoun believed herself to be the true owner of The Metaphor, claiming her sale to Valdez was never finalized. Events took a bizarre turn on Oct. 10, 2005 when Calhoun burglarized Valdez’s Escondido home.

Valdez and family were about to enter their home when they noticed a light on inside the house. As they cautiously approached the residence—the light abruptly shut off.

As they entered the home they saw a woman trying to escape. The intruder shoved Valdez’s sister and fled out the backdoor. During her escape she left a trail of stolen jewelry on the sidewalk. Valdez’s 16-year-old son, Billy, pursued the burglar to her car.

As the intruder was getting into her vehicle, Billy snatched the woman’s purse from her lap. The woman briefly chased the teenager back toward the house trying to retrieve her purse, but fled again once she learned the police had been notified.

Calhoun was arrested later that evening and taken to the Vista County Jail. In a recent interview with “The North County Times,” Valdez praised her son, saying, “He’s my hero.”

In Dec. 2005, Calhoun pleaded guilty to residential burglary, and was sentenced to 1 year in jail with 5 years probation. Despite Valdez pushing for a stiffer sentence, Calhoun got off light with no previous criminal record. However, the judge warned her to stay away from The Metaphor and the Valdez family once she’s released.

Everything at The Metaphor is finally changing for the better, beginning with a new sign and a relaxing outdoor sitting area.

Valdez had to go before “The Historical Society” to explain that she has driven by the place for 15 years, and had never even thought of stopping in because of the terrible condition of the building. She brought in photos of the sign to show city officials, explaining that her goal was to make this one of the prettiest corners in Escondido.

She is definitely succeeding in cleaning up her corner. The entire building just got a fresh coat of paint, and hopefully they’ll have a brand new bar, flooring, and sink very soon. Until then, Valdez is focusing on other amenities.

“You really have to put your all into this and get into every aspect of what you’re doing,” she said.

During the holidays, Valdez’s family came out to visit, and they were just blown away with all the new changes to the cafe. She’s installed a new stove, hood, kitchen appliances, and an all-around more efficient working environment for her staff.

Many changes are still to come. The old stage will soon be removed and replaced with a higher stage to create a better visual environment for spectators during music performances.

The new stage will be located in the rear of the cafe closer to the window. No matter where you’re sitting you’ll be able to catch the action clearly up on stage. The pools tables will be moved to the back, so customers will have more of an area to play in. And Valdez is hoping to bring in video games and dartboards too.

“I feel that this place just has so much potential,” Valdez said.

The Metaphor is quickly becoming the biggest hotspot in the community. Fundraising is something Valdez is very into, so she’s created a fundraising event every Sunday called, “Singing for a Cause.” They open up the mike for bands and singers that have volunteered their time to charity.

Valdez is an active member of “The Rotary Club.” She joined them because their motto is “Service before Self,” and she believes they’ve really helped the community flourish and grow. She also belongs to “The Chamber of Commerce,” and she will soon be joining, “The Better Business Bureau.”

“Owning a business, you really end up getting involved with the City,” Valdez said. “You really find out who people are and what their jobs are.”

Music is definitely a big part of what Valdez would like to bring to The Metaphor. With a different music venue every night there is something going on for everyone. They showcase musicians of all genres including, hip-hop, rock, folk, Dixieland, and karaoke. In addition to rebuilding the stage Valdez is updating the sound system.

Their original menu is something she is extremely proud of. Of particular interest are their diabetic friendly dishes. They serve anything from fish and chips to succulent teriyaki chicken and grilled chicken salad.

“It’s really just a well rounded menu,” Valdez said.

No preservatives are used in the food, and the chef goes to the market several times a week, guaranteeing the freshest assortment of meats and vegetables.

“The spaghetti is fresh; the sauce and everything is made daily. Our salads are loaded with vegetables, not like many restaurants where you go and they have some lettuce, and maybe a cherry tomato with some dressing.”

The resident chef, Andy Anderson, was a cook in the Marine Corp., and he has cooked for three U.S. presidents, –John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson. He directs every aspect of food preparation with precise skill and presentation. He has free reign to create any specialty dishes he wants for the menu.

“One of the biggest responses I’ve received from the community is just “thank you,” and to me that is the most gratifying,” Valdez said.

The Metaphor has a wide assortment of beer and wine available. Valdez is a wine connoisseur and is planning on expanding their selection, adding wines from all over the world. With reasonable prices starting at $3.00 a glass, it’s a great place to sit down and relax.

Valdez keeps a couple bottles of champagne on hand for special occasions. Recently a newlywed couple came in, and Valdez went on stage announcing that the youngsters had just gotten married, presenting them with a free bottle of champagne.

“They were so happy. Just little things make such a strong impression,” she said.

Valdez says she is overwhelmed by the ongoing support she receives from the community, and is happy with her progress. She’d like to open another location, maybe in Oceanside, showcasing the same passion for music and fine foods. Owning The Metaphor Café has “really opened up her eyes to the great people of Escondido.”

Check out The Metaphor Cafe at www.metaphorcafe.com to see the upcoming venue schedule, menus, and much more.

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