While a construction crew worked on the foundation, Golden Corral franchisee Johnny Rojo and representatives from the Hesperia Community Redevelopment Agency presided over the restaurant's ground breaking ceremony on Tuesday morning.


"A restaurant by itself is nothing," Rojo said. "The most successful restaurants are developed with a relationship with the community. We are off to what we think is a great start."


Rojo's quest to build an eatery in Hesperia began four years ago, according to Mayor Thurston "Smitty" Smith.


"We're really excited that the Golden Corral is coming to Hesperia," he said. "Collectively they bring over 50 years of experience in the restaurant business. We commend them for their commitment."


Smith was pleased that Hesperia landed the first Golden Corral, a Raleigh, N.C.-based buffet and grill chain.


"They have 484 restaurants in their chain," Smith said. "They have five in California, two in Southern California, and we have the first one in High Desert, in Hesperia."


The High Desert Gateway is a 349,048-square-foot shopping center anchored by a Super Target.


"This is a great addition," the mayor said.


According to Steve Lantsberger, Hesperia's Deputy Director of Economic Development, the project represents a $4.3 million investment in the city.


"It's very welcome in these economic times. It's going to create about 135 jobs for our residents of Hesperia."


Rojo and his partner spent countless hours scouting various Southern California locations to develop a restaurant. They settled on the Hesperia location because of its proximity to travelers. He also credited the city's Redevelopment Agency staff for helping move the project along.


"I knew this was going to be an amazing place to locate a restaurant and build relationships in a community," Rojo said. "We are very excited to open this restaurant in this location. We worked so long to get to this point. We want to be a part of Hesperia."