Supporting small, Black-owned businesses with Yolanda Quam

The Fuel Shack, located in San Clemente, CA. Sydney Cooks/Lariat

The Fuel Shack is nothing except good vibes and a positive atmosphere

Yolanda Quam, the owner of  The Fuel Shack in San Clemente, California, is one of the many small Black-owned businesses with a friendly atmosphere and food the community loves. As the local customers keep coming back for the food, the hospitality is another factor that makes them stay.

The Fuel Shack opened in December 2018, and since then, Quam has made sure her business not only stands out from others with the items on her menu but she also keeps the ambiance of the restaurant fun and exciting.

“You will remember how the food tasted, but you will remember more how you felt while you were eating your food,” Quam says. “We are an experience.”

In January 2020, the Fuel Shack was listed as one of the “top restaurants that you should try” by Yelp. Quam’s restaurant was ranked 13 out of 100 in the nation on the list, putting the Fuel Shack at number five in California and number one in Orange County.

“People that follow Yelp, people that write on Yelp, they were coming from everywhere,” Quam says. “We were on the news, and we were in the newspaper. It was a very humbling experience, though, because we were just doing our best to be a part of the community and to give a great experience, and they came to dine with us.”

While Quam loves to bring light into her restaurant, she also puts the same energy into the food she makes. Her efforts to make sure everything was in order before the store opened, was the epitome of her dedication.

“In the 470 days we were open before we closed because of COVID mandate, I worked 460 of those days,” Quam says. “Getting up at 3:30 in the morning prepping our food, getting ready to cook.”

Quam, leaving her job in the pediatric field and having no experience in the food industry before she opened the Fuel Shack, has made an impression throughout the community of San Clemente. As she traces her southern roots from Shreveport, Louisiana, she can pull inspiration from her grandmother’s and represent them from the items on her menu.

“People would say, ‘oh, that’s crazy. It’s a lot of work’, honestly it is,” Quam says. “It’s probably much easier being on call as a physician than it was in the beginning stages of opening a restaurant, but it has been such a joy, so inspirations from my grandmothers because they made eating and preparing food and gatherings they made it so wonderful.”

Her blueberry muffins on the menu are made from scratch and pay honor to her grandmother, who loves blueberries. Quam says that though “the recipe is simple when you cook with love, you can tell the difference.”

“I had no restaurant experience, I had none, other than the desire to show joy through food,” Quam says.”I learned that from both of my grandmothers. They’re from the south.”

While she takes inspiration from her grandmothers and the way they cooked their food, she is also dedicated to the connections she can make with customers through her restaurant.

“My staff would remember our locals, our regular customers, and they knew what their drinks were,” Quam says. “They knew them by name and so sometimes they would already have their drink prepared or their meal already prepared for them and they like that.”  

Quam says her successful idea is having a good time and making sure her customers are enjoying themselves. She has an appreciation for the community with their love and support.