Walking into Los Arroyos, one immediately feels at ease in the comfortable, inviting atmosphere. Regulars know what they will order before they even walk through the door, while many find it difficult to choose from a variety of favorite options. Tony Arroyo started Los Arroyos 15 years ago, and through his hard work, his business has grown to include four locations with more than 100 employees. He credits Santa Barbara City College for giving him the business skills he needed to make his dream a reality. “I am doing what I love to do,” said Tony. “And that is working in restaurants.”

Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Tony came to America around the age of 14, looking for a new opportunity and the chance for an education. He lived in Pasadena for six months, before visiting Santa Barbara and falling in love with the community. He quickly moved, and got a job working at Moby Dick restaurant. At the age of 18, Tony enrolled at Santa Barbara City College. “It was amazing to attend Santa Barbara City College,” said Tony. “You have no idea how many times I would sit down on the steps at the stadium, look at the ocean, and think how lucky I was – not just to be in this city, but to be at a college like this.”

While attending SBCC, Tony took English 110, bookkeeping, and accounting courses, and credits his ESL classes with providing him with the opportunity to learn English. “I learned to speak English at SBCC,” said Tony. “At that time, City College was the best thing that happened to me.”

Tony also remembers the great experiences he had in the culinary school. One teacher in particular, a French chef, taught him that everyone eats from the eyes first, then from the smell, and then from the mouth. “My teacher engrained in me the importance of making a beautiful plate of food as a way for people to fall in love with and be intrigued by my cooking,” said Tony. “He made me realize that food is an art form and that I needed to make beautiful food so that people could enjoy it.”

When the time was right, Tony found a small location on Figueroa Street in downtown Santa Barbara, opening the doors to Los Arroyos on March 4, 1999. “When I opened my restaurant, I used all of my savings, and every idea I had to get the place started. I had the menu in my head the whole time,” said Tony. “I had no money for advertising, and could not even afford to hang a proper sign. I only sold two meals at lunchtime, but by 8:00 p.m. that night I had to close the doors because I was completely sold out of food.”

For Tony, college contributed to his success, giving him the tools he needed to develop and grow his business. He now gives back to the community as part of his business model, supporting a variety of community causes including education and the school he loves so much. “I still go and sit in the same spot on the stairs and watch the ocean, and it just brings me right back to my great college days,” said Tony. “I loved attending City College, and from this experience coupled with my personal success, I feel as if I graduated in life.”

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