Funky Family Restaurant, “Squeeze In,” Opens in Redwood City with 88% Diversion

IMG_4129Blog post courtesy of Recology San Mateo County Waste Zero Specialist, Angela Goebel.

“You’re sitting at our table,” says co-owner Rickey Martinez as I sit down with him, his wife Amanda, and Recology Waste Zero Specialist, Misty McKinney. The restaurant’s walls are filled with miscellaneous bric-a-brac and colorful aliens, so it isn’t surprising that the table has blended in. I look down and notice the table is filled with their photos, tickets, and other memorabilia you might find in a scrap book.

“We had a guest, he makes these. So if you look here, this is me when I was a long-haired hippie. This is our wedding invitation. We did a destination wedding in Hawaii. Pictures from our lives. A letter from Senator Harry Reid, welcoming me to the PR field when I was doing that a few years ago. We’ve had a fun ride. Neither of us thought we’d be restaurateurs.”

Amanda and Rickey begin telling me the story of how they came to open the new Redwood City Squeeze In. In Rickey’s family, restaurants became the stage for love, dreams, and community. In the 1950s, Rickey’s grandmother opened a restaurant in Upland, California called The Super. His aunts and uncles worked at The Super before and after school, and eventually it was where his mother met his father.

My mother waited on my dad,” he says, “And my dad left her a penny as tip because he thought the service was lacking. They didn’t know from one another until years later when they ended up working together at another restaurant. She mentioned The Super, so my dad said, ‘Oh yeah, I ate there once. The service was lousy; I left the waitress a penny.’ And she responded, ‘That was me! I was the waitress! How could you do that?’ My parents owned a restaurant when I was growing up. I guess it was only a matter of time before I did.

The first Squeeze In began by flipping omelettes in Truckee, California in 1974. The namesake came from how guests would have to squeeze in to sit at a table, since the restaurant was only a little over ten feet wide. At the time, Rickey’s Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary would drive up from Reno to eat at the original Squeeze In restaurant in 1979. When Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary first started thinking about owning a restaurant, they didn’t want just any restaurant, they wanted to own the Squeeze In. Aunt Misty had the opportunity to meet the owners of the Squeeze In, whom she told, “I love your place. If you sell it to anybody, you have to sell it to me.”
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In 2003, Rickey’s Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary went all in on their dream. They quit their jobs and purchased the Squeeze In. In 2005, Rickey went up to Tahoe for his cousin Shila’s wedding, and he helped out at the restaurant for the week. “Low and behold,” says Rickey, “Amanda was working there at the same time. We met and fell in love.”

Love was also in the air for foodies, and in 2010 the Food Network approached the Squeeze In to do a special on restaurants that love their guests. To their surprise, Bobby Flay rolled up in a blizzard to challenge them to a Throwdown. The menu, which dates back to the 1970s, features dozens of items that are named after Truckee locals and family members. The Food Network helped them pare it back a bit, and the menu gained the addition of a newly inspired omelette, the Spanish Flay.

The restaurant began growing and opening new locations in 2008. “People used to drive from miles and miles around, and fly in for vacation every year and have to go to the Squeeze In. So that got the ball rolling,” explains Rickey. Last year, the yoga studio a couple doors down approached them about opening a new location in Redwood City. The momentum grew; it was clear the community wanted their own Squeeze In.

IMG_4130Amanda and Rickey Martinez went a step further when they opened their Redwood City location this month. When Waste Zero Specialist, Misty McKinney, contacted them to assist in implementing a new garbage and recycling program, they decided to give composting a try. “We thought,” Rickey reflected, “we need to minimize the waste.”

“It’s good for the environment,” joined Amanda.

“And it’s good for business,” agreed Rickey. “There was a learning curve the first couple of days. It’s only been a week, and we’ve got a firm grasp on it. So obviously it’s good for us because we aren’t paying as much for trash, but the bigger picture is we are reducing our carbon footprint on the world. When we go to sleep at night, we can rest knowing that we did our part. I think that if every other business continues to do their part, it will help out in the long run. We won’t have to have all these landfills. As much as you want to give us the credit, Recology have given us the tools and the assistance needed to make it as smooth a transition as it needed to be.”

The Redwood City Squeeze In’s official opening is March 30th. There will be a ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce at 2pm.

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