Five fires, five owners: the century-long life of Los Gatos Meats & Smokehouse


Photo courtesy of Los Gatos Meats and Smokehouse

Serving since 1891, Los Gatos Meats and Smokehouse is the second oldest business in Los Gatos and the only location remaining after five others burned down.

The Chialas have run the meat market since 1991. Johnny and Donna Chiala are the current owners and the whole family is involved (including children and grandchildren).

Sarah Chiala, granddaughter of Johnny and Donna Chiala, said she is close with her family and tries to work at the restaurant any chance she gets.

“I look forward to coming into work whenever I can,” she said. “Especially seeing pictures all around here of my dad working here when he was my age.”

When Sarah Chiala was growing up, people would recognize her from the restaurant as she walked downtown with friends.

“They know our family from this place and growing up in town,” she said. “It’s really been something special.”

Brian Chiala, the son of the owners, has worked for the business for 30 years and run it for 12. His parents are older, in their 70s and 80s, so they are staying away.

“When this pandemic hit, we had to keep them at home,” Brian Chiala said.

The pandemic has also changed their business structure, as the family uses online orders and curbside pickup for all their services. Before, they used DoorDash only for sandwich orders.

“To put [in] a computer and internet and then all of a sudden [start] taking online orders is a huge step,” Brian Chiala added.

Even with this change, the pandemic has not lowered their number of orders.

“We have been really busy and we’re really grateful for that,” said Jackie Chiala, sister of Brian Chiala.

Their locally sourced, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat may have helped.

“We’re trying to create a niche, a specialty,” said Brian Chiala. “We just try to source the best product, the best quality, consistency and price that we can offer.”

Jose Gonzalez, 29-year-old resident of San Jose, has been a customer for three years, although he hasn’t visited recently due to the pandemic. His favorite food is sandwiches.

“I remember the first time I tried the sandwiches,” Gonzalez said. “They instantly became my favorite.”

The market is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.