By John Hibble
Egyptian and Greek mythology, and the Harry Potter fantasy series, refer to a Phoenix bird that dies by bursting into flame and is then reborn from its ashes. Therefore, phoenix would be a good description of the Hideout restaurant at 9051 Soquel Drive in Aptos. The Hideout is the latest restaurant incarnation in a historic building that dates back to 1927.
The Hideout opened in early 2015 after a complete face lift to the building done by the new owners Pete and Lisa Vomvolakis, and Austin and Rachel Welch. The Hideout was a great success and was popular with the dining and cocktail crowd.
Tragedy happened in the early morning of May 20, 2019, when a fire started in one of the outside storage units and moved quickly to the main building. The restaurant building was substantially damaged. The hopes of a speedy rebuild met several delays, not the least of which was the pandemic of Covid19. But the phoenix has risen from the ashes. After a significant rebuild, the restaurant reopened on March 22, 2021. A magnificent old growth redwood bar was created by Tim Taylor of Pacific Firewood and the building interior is entirely new creating open rooms and soaring ceilings.
My first visit to that restaurant location was in the mid 1970s. Karen and I were staying in a Seascape vacation rental and we dined at a small, nearly hidden restaurant called Charles Dickens. In fact, the parking area and all of the small businesses around it were called Charles Dickens Square. After Karen and I moved here, a French restaurant opened in the same location in 1983 called Chez Renee. It became one of the finest restaurants in the county. The owners, Jack and Renee Chyle, were tired of their Silicon Valley corporate lifestyle so Jack sold his Corvette to pay for tuition to the California Culinary Academy and Renee became the maître d’ running the front of the house. After the restaurant Chez Renee closed, Ann and Charles Confer reopened it as Southern Exposure Bistro in June 2000. In February 2005, Lionel and Janet Le Morvan opened Ma Maison restaurant. Lionel trained under two French master chefs.
There is more to this story. I have always been interested in sailing and I had inherited a small 14 foot sailboat in bad condition in which I invested vast amounts of time and money trying to bring it back to mint condition. I bought lots of hardware for the boat, especially top-of-the-line Harken brand fittings. On August 1, 1996, Peter and Olaf Harken, owners of Harken Yacht Equipment, were in town on business with West Marine in Watsonville and stopped into our museum.
Peter, Olaf, and their mother lived in Aptos during World War II. They and their father had lived in Indonesia, which was invaded by the Japanese. Their father was a civil engineer and was Caterpillar’s agent for all of Indonesia and the surrounding islands in Malaysia. He stayed behind to destroy what he could so the Japanese could not use it. He became a prisoner of war. The boys and their mother escaped on American freighters and came to Aptos and lived with a 60-year-old Dutch woman, Elizabeth Jongeneel, in a house overlooking Valencia Creek with redwoods. That house is today’s Hideout restaurant.
The Harkens remembered the cement ship fishing pier and the army from Camp McQuaid doing beach landings and maneuvers on Rio Del Mar beach. They even got to ride on Army personnel carriers. Peter said, “We spent a lot of time swimming out to the landing barges full of young green soldiers coming in to the beach and the GIs would reach down as they passed by and grab us by our outstretched arms and haul us into the barge, put a helmet on us and in we rode with them.” They remembered the hamburger restaurant in the Sea Breeze building at the Esplanade and how cute the owner’s daughter was.
They were reunited with their father in San Francisco after the war and moved to Wisconsin where they started the marine supply company. They had not been back to Aptos for 53 years.
The original home where the Harkens stayed was built on three acres in 1927 by Martin Jongeneel. It had a circular driveway and a large basement. The home was called Beth-Mar. Martin was a horticulturalist and had a rhododendron and azalea nursery on the property. There was a greenhouse and lath house to the east. There was an orchard to the west and the neighbor had a fox farm called Kitty Rich Furs. Martin died in 1931.
There were very few buildings along Soquel Drive in the 1920s. The Spreckels Ranch had just been sold and the first developments were just beginning. The lot would have originally been sold to Martin Jongeneel by Amelia Arano, owner of the Bay View Hotel.
The home, Beth Mar in 1929 with Martin Jongeneel in the driveway.
Martin’s wife was born Elizabeth Vankaathoven in Holland and came to the United States in 1889. Her home was always open to everyone She taught piano to many of the local children. Elizabeth passed away in Santa Cruz in 1955.
Originally, the house had steps leading up to the entrance but today, stairs lead down to the patio deck and entry. The original stairs are underneath the deck. The entrance to the building was altered with the construction of Highway One in 1948. The new highway cut through several ridges between Rio Del Mar and Aptos Creek and the route was graded down toward the approaches to the creek and the freeway bridge. Vast quantities of dirt were moved and much of it was pushed onto the old highway, (Soquel Drive), and adjacent properties which raised some properties as much as six feet.
The entry porch and steps in 1941 with Elizabeth Jongeneel on the left.
The next owners after the Jongeneels turned the building into a nursing home. It was stuccoed at that time. It was sold to J. D. Jacobsen in 1965 and from 1965 to 1969 it was used as a church, and then it was converted to Charles Dickens restaurant.
Peter Harken at the Aptos History Museum March 15, 2021
A voice out of the past called me on March 12th. It was Peter Harken now 81, who was visiting with Randy Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers of West Marine. Peter wanted to visit the museum and to see his World War II home and the Sea Breeze Tavern building. We all met at the museum on Monday March 15th. I told Peter that both of the buildings were the victim of fires but that they were both still standing. Peter was able to visit both buildings and was able to see the impressive new Hideout and to meet the owners the week before the reopening. He was impressed and you will be too. You owe it to yourself to visit the new Hideout.
If you enjoy these stories and are not a member, please join the Aptos History Museum or make a donation so we can survive the pandemic.