Gallery: Catarinas [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Shelle Sandberg
The original Caterina’s was established in 1990, by Josie Rietkerk. It was located in San Clemente next to Pier 1 Imports; evolving since then into the John Wayne, Ontario, Reno and LAX airport stores selling candy, chocolate, and gifts over the next 26 years. Josie also opened at least 11 other stores, including the Stella Lucy Gluten Free market, named after two of her granddaughters.
She has enlisted the hard work and dedication of her children, Tim and Cathy, (the namesake of Caterina’s) in these successful undertakings. Tim has overseen the construction aspects of building, and Cathy has been involved in the accounting and marketing aspects since the age of 15. And when Tim found it tiresome paying contractors to do the things he felt he could do, he found his way into the construction business and is currently a licensed General Contractor.
This business’ new location across from the San Clemente pier is also a family affair. Opened and owned by Tim Rietkerk, it’s a three-generation venture with each doing what he/she does best. Individually, each person is humble about the role he/she plays, but incredibly proud of the other family members’ accomplishments. They all have immense passion for the project.
For the first time Caterina’s has begun offering gelato. It’s made daily on-site. There are 24 flavors in the case, with six of them being non-dairy sorbet. Tim makes them all himself, working 15-hour days to make sure there’s enough to meet the demand. He’s got the basics down, and is now experimenting with original flavors.
Opening the business went smoothly. It took about 10 months with the planning and permits. Caterina picked out the gelato case, Tim renovated the space (his favorite part of his store so far) doing all the construction from the ground up, and Lucy developed the graphic design. Cathy finds her challenge is keeping up with social media.
In addition to gelato, there is an array of coffee delights, including espresso, lattes, cappuccino, and of course, nitro brew. They’ve got smoothies, sno-cones, shakes, and even Kombucha. They offer bagels, muffins, and cinnamon rolls the size of a child’s head! There is a chocolate case with the most beautiful, if not seductive, chocolates and truffles, English toffee, peanut butter cups, chocolate covered pretzels, and cashew and pecan turtles that are made on-site. Lucy described the turtles as, “… fun to make!” One could only imagine…
There are three sizes of gelato servings. Cathy’s favorite flavor is ricotta, while Lucy would like to see cotton candy made. Tim’s favorite, although he’s only made it once, is white chocolate raspberry. They all sound mouth-watering, and nothing could be fresher than the waffle cones that are pressed daily.
The family has always believed in giving young people an opportunity; this is evidenced by the exceptional help they have working for them. They look at their grades, believing if they work hard in school they will be a hard worker on the job. Academics play a large part in the hiring process and it appears she is on to something. It’s worked for the businesses for over 26 years.
The family all agreed the best part of Caterina’s are the people. The support and excitement from the community has been overwhelming, as well as from the other storefronts. They love all their neighbors and say the businesses support one another. There’s Cosentino’s Pizza, Beach Ice Cream & Yogurt, Pier Market, Bear Coast Coffee and Pierside Kitchen & Bar… and everybody draws a lot of business.
Cathy believes a “flawless day” for their customers would be sitting on the beach, deciding to take a break, and coming into Caterina’s for the shade. They could order some cold drinks and gelato. It’s great for the kids, and they could still see that gorgeous view of the pier and the ocean!
Another plus for the shop is the San Clemente Trolley that stops every 20 minutes right across the street. The residents and tourists are getting used to this service, and with customers being delivered to their front door Caterina’s is enjoying the exposure.
Different than in 1990, this beach location can now support a year-round business. The winters were sleepy back then. San Clemente is on the map now as a multi-seasonal tourist destination, but it’s still quaint. With the chemistry between the people, seaside, and the love for gelato, Caterina’s plans on being around for a very long time!