Nangy and Fahima Ghafarshad took ownership of Walter’s Coffee Shop on October 15, 1973. They had moved to Claremont a couple of years before when Nangy was hired as a flight instructor at Brackett Airport in La Verne. They were both struggling on their meager wages and were looking for something more. They had chosen to leave their native country of Afghanistan with every intention to be successful in America. A friend and flight student of Nangy’s took them to Walter’s, then just a traditional mid-century diner with a long counter, open kitchen, mint green walls and salmon pink booths. Walter’s had been on the market for a year. The owner, Joe Lorenzo had bought the business from Walter Boldig, the restaurant’s namesake and original owner. With the help of their friend, Nangy and Fahima were able to make a down payment and take the biggest risk of their lives.
From the cockpit of a jet airplane to the helm of a kitchen. They had no real knowledge of the restaurant business but obviously had the determination, stamina, and sense of elan to make a go of their huge endeavor. The first three days of business were extremely busy. An Afghan family in Claremont opening a restaurant was sure to spark the interest of our small town. But, with only two employees who were not always dependable to show up, it was a disaster and not too long before the couple was ready to throw in the towel.
For a time, they kept much of the menu and the original coffee shop the same, adding only a few items and their personal flair. They stayed closed on Sundays for Claremont was a ghost town on Sundays at the time. It was only a year or two after they opened that they made Wednesday and Friday evenings to include Afghan dishes. Claremont is a college town. Nangy and Fahima were as young as many of the students. They forged relationships with the community and listened to advice on how to develop the restaurant. Many of those friends still come to Walter’s and it is one of the most gratifying aspects of the life of this business. Students and community alike were interested in their energetic and foreign element, both in nationality and character. It is the shear level of bold and daring in this young couple that paved the way for the next 40 years.
Little by little, Nangy and Fahima began imprinting their trademark. They painted, constructed, reupholstered and got a beer and wine license. Wooden beams, dark moody lighting, greenery, and artful stained glass became the Walter’s of the 1970’s.
The outdoor patio was added. They paved with concrete, crafted signature hand-tiled tables, expanded the kitchen and Walter’s outdoor concept was now on it’s way! They had a piano player in the dining room. When the outdoor
patio was added, they had an accordion player on the sidewalk. Local talent (whose to name any names?) entertained at nights.
Nangy and Fahima had established their personal style at this point with their menu as well. They perfected CA cuisine, fusing their native Afghan flavors and all the international influences of the ever growing and new LA food scene.
They traveled, took classes from world-class chefs, and established themselves as accomplished chefs themselves. Fahima went to France and studied with pastry chefs, Wolfgang Puck among many, and the birth of her signature desserts was conceived.
Adding the cottage dining rooms staying in 1975 brought the Sunday brunch to Walter’s. Champagne and food specialties and ice swans. Our brunch until this day is the best you’ll see in this greater metropolitan area. Some who have seen it will tell you that there is a basement below our cottages. They are right. Fahima needed a place to bake. Our wine selection needed proper storage. Therestaurant wasn’t getting any smaller and we needed more room. Nangy and his crew literally hand dug that basement out starting in the early 80’s. The business was growing stronger! There was no stopping this machine of entrepreneurs now! They were on the ride of their lives and they were going to give the public what they wanted and what they needed. A world class restaurant in the little college town of Claremont. They expanded beyond Claremont and opened a small specialty market in Upland, Walter’s Specialty. Itwas a great concept but, their work was together and this separated them. The strength of this business was the strength of the team.
They needed to be together, side by side. So, Walter’s Specialty Market dissolved. But, this wasn’t going to be the last time they attempted an outside location...
At this point, nothing could stop the hardworking couple. Unless....
In August 1987, after 14 years of incredible growth and success, Walter’s had a tragic fire. The entire inside kitchen and dining room were destroyed. Hand carved wood, stained glass that define our logo until this day, and a restaurant that two pairs of hands had built from not much to start was gone in a night. Each and every employee, the community, all showed up on that day to help in whatever way they could. It was a day when Nangy and Fahima could see the many friends they had in Claremont. But, this setback didn't stop them. They set their minds to making this tragedy more of a blessing and an opportunity to grow further. They planned, hired architects, consulted designers and the Walter’s of the late 1980’s was unveiled in the winter of 1988. They went back to pinks but 80’s pink, gray booths, brighter lighting, and they expanded taking half of the old pharmacy next door. Walter’s added a bakery and a rotisserie barbeque. The original door got replaced and Walter’s had a brand new look. Walter’s Specialty Market could now be contained in the same building. We sold our desserts, quiches, salads, a TO GO concept became commonplace.
The current décor of Walter’s is a bistro and bar concept that came merely from a desire to remodel and to expand upon what was already established. One can’t grow that much and then stop. Walter’s never stops! In 2000, Walter’s added a bar and a full liquor license to the restaurant’s multi-faceted offerings. In 2005, they attempted another market, in Claremont this time. They offered all the specialties of Walter’s from stocks to prime cuts of meat but, again, that separated the team. Walter’s premises determined to be the only location for growth. So the family then made the outdoor patio extend further back and added more cottages. Walter’s Restaurant now can seat 400 in the entire restaurant! The menu consists of over 100 items between breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant does caterings for up to 1,500 people and also offers a late night scene on the weekends and is open till 2am. The team at Walter’s now extends well beyond just Nangy and Fahima and two employees. Walter’s has been around since 1957 and is a landmark in Claremont!