Five Crowns' longtime marketing manager Margo Brask will retire on Feb. 2 — 46 years after she began working at the Corona del Mar restaurant as a server in between college classes.
"This was the place in Corona del Mar to work," Brask said. "We were the only thing in town, and every night was busy, busy, busy."
When Brask was hired in 1966, she recalls having three weeks of extensive training in order to manage the tableside flambés, carving of lamb and salad preparations.
At that time, the restaurant at 3801 E. Coast Hwy.'s "Bille of Faer" boasted Knightly Selections including a Five Crowns Cut of prime rib for $7.95 and a cup of coffee for 40 cents.
"I was supposed to go to college," Brask said. "But I wanted to bypass that. The money was too good. It wasn't easy, but it was fun to come work every day. You laughed, you talked to all the people, and I loved it."
In 1980, Brask was promoted to manager, and 10 years later she became the first-ever sales and marketing manager.
In between, she began secretly dating former Executive Chef Dennis Brask — and the two were married in 1987.
"We were friends long before we became a couple, and then we had to be quiet about it," she said.
Chef Brask retired last year.
As sales and marketing manager, Margo Brask works with couples planning weddings and other large events.
In her role, Brask has become a community fixture. Five Crowns regularly hosts events including the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce mixers, the Sunrise Rotary Club meetings and Newport Beach Sister City Assn. gatherings.
"Margo has been such an active and supportive member of our chamber, and we will miss her warm greeting and personal interaction at our Five Crowns networking events," Linda Leonhard, president of the CdM Chamber, said in an email. "We wish Margo all the best in her next journey."
Gary Sherwin, president and chief executive of Visit Newport Beach, said Brask would be honored at the group's board meeting Thursday with the President's Award for Outstanding Service to the Community.
"Margo is a former board member of ours who has done an amazing job for what has got to be the longest length of stay record for any restaurant in America that I know of," he said in an email. "Margo is a fixture on the Newport Beach hospitality scene and will be missed in so many ways. Margo is Five Crowns as far as many people are concerned and she has been a fantastic contributor to the community at large as well as her own organization."
Brask said she had not considered retirement, even when her husband retired in February 2011 after 26 years.
Chef Brask had no special plans for retirement and has been busier than ever, she said.
"He feeds the homeless, he goes to the food bank, he prospects for gold in the mountains with his friends," she said.
As she watched her husband enjoy retirement, she said she began to give her own some serious thought. Finally she submitted her resignation letter in July, making plans to take several vacations to Arizona, New York and Lake Tahoe.
"It wasn't an easy decision," she said. "But at some point in your life, you have to relax. I have had a wonderful home here, but I'm ready. It's just time."
CdM car show faces crosstown rival
The Coastline Classic Car Show fills Big Corona State Beach's parking lot each September with hundreds of vintage cars and thousands of enthusiasts.
But a new car show that would benefit Newport Elementary School on the peninsula is being planned for the same month, causing concerns among two City Council members and CdM Chamber organizers.
"I'd just like to go on record that I don't think that's a very good idea for that second car show to be held close in time to the Corona del Mar show that's been going on for a long time, has achieved real critical mass and success," Councilman Mike Henn said in a study session Tuesday at City Hall. "I'm not against Newport El having a car show, that's for sure, but I don't think we want it in such close competition with Corona del Mar."
Councilman Ed Selich said he agreed.
Recreation and Senior Services Director Laura Detweiler said that the Newport Elementary School Foundation organizers were working on a special event permit application, and that she would pass along the council's concerns.
Matt Wiley, a Newport Elementary School parent who is organizing the car show, said he had no concerns that the two shows would be in conflict.
"There are three car shows every weekend," he said. "There are tons. I've been told it kind of doesn't matter. These people will come out. There's no conflict."
But Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce President Linda Leonhard, who organizes the Coastline Classic, said the shows should be at least six months apart to avoid conflicts with sponsorships and car collectors.
"It is a worked out calendar and courtesy among car shows so we are successful," she said in an email. "We know the amount of work put into a car show and feel our show has enough stamina — but it will confuse dealers, etc., I am sure."
Wiley said the school, like most public schools, needed fundraising more than ever for computer labs and other programs. The school, located on the beach, should use that feature to create a unique fundraising experience, and an oceanside car show seemed a perfect fit, he said.
The September date works best, he added, because it avoids peak beach season and crowds as well as the rainy season. The cars, he said, would be on the school's blacktop area.
"We're in the nascent stage of the process," he said. "I think their worry is misplaced. I don't think it would diminish. It might even enhance."
Last year's Coastline Car Classic in Corona del Mar was discussed at the council's regular Tuesday meeting as well.
The council voted unanimously to waive parking fees for the event.