By Raiza Giorgi

Helmut Holzheu will soon celebrate a milestone birthday and he wants to share it with the community he loves so much, so his family is throwing a ‘Founding Father’s Day’ birthday party for him at El Rancho Market on Saturday, June 15.

“My father Helmut is and has always been a force of nature and a positive role model for 90 years. He never gives up and is relentlessly positive. As a result, he saw nothing but opportunity and felt that in any way he could help his community, he would be helping himself and his family,” said his son, Alfred Holzheu.

el rancho

When the Holzheus first leased the abandoned store, it faced Highway 246. They expanded in 1975 into the store that still operates today.

The self-made businessman started as an apprentice at a butcher shop in Germany. He and his wife Doris were newlyweds with very little money when they accepted an invitation to move to Santa Barbara from Germany in 1954. They have known each other since they were 3 years old, his wife noted.

“We married in February of 1954 and moved to America in November the same year. I was pregnant with our first child and we barely knew any English,” Doris said in her German accent.

They eventually moved to Shell Beach and on a drive for their anniversary in 1966, they came to the Santa Ynez Valley and drove by a closed store with a ‘For Lease’ sign in the window.

Two weeks later they signed a lease and more than 50 years later, El Rancho is a staple in the valley.

They pride themselves on having products that are fresh from local farmers and other producers.

The Holzheus have been involved in the Santa Ynez Elks Lodge, the Lions Club and Viking Charities. They made and cooked sausage at Danish Days for many years, and they also cooked the corned beef and cabbage for Mission Santa Ines’ St. Patrick’s Day celebrations for 30 years.

Helmut has been chairman of the Mission Fiesta, and Doris delivered Meals on Wheels for many years. She is a member of the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital Auxiliary and the choir at Mission Santa Ines.

“He was a proud citizen of his adopted country, even traveling to Washington, D.C., to acquire a flag that had been flown over the White House. To this day we fly a flag at El Rancho every day on the huge flag pole he set up in the parking lot in 1975,” Alfred added.

Throughout the years Helmut and Doris have also been board members of the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society, Solvang Friendship House, and San Lorenzo Seminary.

The Holzheus bought land near their store in case they needed to relocate, but instead they donated that land as the site for the Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA in Santa Ynez. They also helped raise the funds to build it.

They often go to their store and get lunch to take on picnics or meat to take home for dinner. Helmut loves the Mississippi Caviar, which has become a store staple.

“I could not be more proud of my father, and I am blessed that we will be able to celebrate his 90th surrounded by family and friends in his beloved El Rancho Market,” Alfred said.

Follow El Rancho Market on Facebook to learn more about the celebration.