Carol Wallace's favorite part about the restaurant business are the smiles she sees on customers' faces after they have had a good meal at the Feed & Fuel on North School Street in Lodi.
It is those smiles that Wallace said she will miss the most when she retires in the next few weeks.
Wallace, with her blonde hair, blue eyes and engaging smile, has been in the restaurant business for 42 years, but she is finally saying good-bye to long hours of greeting customers, planning menus and keeping the Feed & Fuel a mealtime destination for people of all ages.
She is planning to retire in May, once the Feed & Fuel closes escrow.
"I have no idea what I am going to do," she said of her retirement plans. "I might like to travel. But then again I may end up working again."
Wallace has never been one to sit back and relax.
In 1971, when she was just 24 years old, Wallace and her husband, Clark Wallace, moved to Tower Park Marina on West Highway 12.
Through hard work and a keen eye for hiring dedicated, enthusiastic employees, the Wallaces helped turn the area into the summer destination spot it is today.
Carol Wallace migrated to the Lodi area after growing up in Pleasant Hill, a northern suburb of the Bay Area. She said she used to "cruise the creek" with cousins and friends in areas like Lafayette and only came out to Lodi with her husband.
But she said she quickly fell in love with the area. She and her husband had two boys, and enjoyed running the marina, even during its down time in the winter months.
Summertime, she said, was the greatest time of all.
"We had the same people come back every year because they knew the staff, they knew the band that played, they knew everyone," she said. "That is what people like to see when they walk into a familiar place — familiar faces. You don't like to walk into a restaurant you have been to and see people you don't know."
It is that attitude that Wallace has carried with her, even after she left Tower Park Marina.
On March 31, 1997, she walked into a bar in Woodbridge to commemorate her leaving Tower Park Marina to start a new chapter in her life.
The owner of the bar was looking for someone to run the business, and Wallace seemed like the perfect candidate.
The next day, Wallace was in charge of the Woodbridge Feed & Fuel.
"I just don't stop," she said. "I came in for a drink and the next minute I'm running (the business)." And it is true, Wallace seems to continue to pile on more projects. She expanded her restaurant business to a spot in Clements before returning to Lodi and opening the Feed & Fuel restaurant in its current location on North School Street.
The restaurant in Lodi opened in January 2007 and has been a destination spot for steak-lovers who would not mind having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is also known for its seafood options, which have been lauded by Lodi residents including former mayor Larry Hansen.
The Feed & Fuel will remain open until escrow closes in the next few weeks, Wallace said, when the restaurant will become a pizza parlor that offers a full-service bar as well as arcade games.
"I expect I will get some phone calls about questions (the new owner) may have," she said. "But I am really going to miss having people tell me what a great meal they had here."
For now, however, Wallace will continue to run the Feed & Fuel and ponder her retirement plans.
"I have been called four times to interview to run a tasting room up at Lake Shasta," she said. "Maybe I will end up there. It's a ways away, but I think I should give them a call."
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at email@example.com.