This restaurateur maintains a full plate

Trevor Clark/Nevada Appeal John Hurzel, along with his sister and brother, have owned Grandma Hattie's restaurant inCarsonCity since 1986.

Trevor Clark/Nevada Appeal John Hurzel, along with his sister and brother, have owned Grandma Hattie's restaurant inCarsonCity since 1986.

When it comes to fundraising and being asked for donations, there's a name that seems to be synonymous with charity - John Hurzel.

Who is John Hurzel? Does "Grandma Hattie's" ring a bell? The man whose voice sounds similar to actor Joe Pesci?

Hurzel, 50, along with his brother Rick and sister Karen, own Grandma Hattie's Restaurant at 2811 S. Carson St.

"We named it after our mom," Hurzel said.

The Hurzel siblings purchased the restaurant, a former Denny's, in 1986. Shortly after, it burned practically to the ground.

"It was a big black shell of a thing," he described. "We decided to put it back together."

Grandma Hattie's is now operated by John and Karen, after Rick moved to California.

"Karen and I run the place," John said. "When it comes to donations, I do donate - within limitations. But the donations go generally where kids are concerned."

In the two meeting rooms of Grandma Hattie's, Hurzel displays dozens of plaques and certificates of appreciation from community groups. He has several more in his office not yet mounted on a wall.

"People give us recognition so I find a place for them, and there they stay. That way the groups know we do appreciate them."

In a typical month, Hurzel said his two meeting rooms are used by 38-40 groups on a regular basis. In addition, there are about 15 groups making special arrangements, and another 20-plus, off-premise catering appointments.

All these responsibilities are covered by 38 staff, who trade off on catering and restaurant shifts.

"It gives them a break from the routine," Hurzel said.

Hurzel grew up in the Bay area, in the family bakery. His father said he didn't want to raise his children in the Bay area, and moved the family in 1968 to South Lake Tahoe.

John has been married 27 years to Linda, who is a physical education teacher at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School, and they have two sons - Joey, who lives in Las Vegas, and Jeffery, a junior at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"My kids were in sports and we lived by the sports schedule," Hurzel said. "From pee wee football to high school (sports).

"I've been in town a long time, and when people want to ask me something, I tell them. I've even helped some get started in their own food business - like Madeleine's Cookies and Carson City BBQ Co.

"I'm also a mentor for the culinary arts program at Carson High School," Hurzel said. "It has been a blast. I'm also the state chairman for the (high school) culinary competition, which is in Reno this year in April."

Hurzel can usually be found in the restaurant every morning. Monday is order day, and he goes over the week's caterings, functions in-house and out-of-house, just to keep things coordinated.

"I frequently cook," Hurzel said. "I'm an extra hand basically. Like any owner, you fill the gap."

Hurzel said he loves what he does. He has no problem getting up early and going to work each day.

"Not that you don't have a bad day," he said. "In the long run, there are far more good days. I keep a positive attitude, and everything falls back into place."

• Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at rcosta-landers@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1223.

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