Space shuttle Endeavour is a windfall in Westchester
First came a boy with a Buzz Lightyear backpack half as big as he was. Then, a man wearing a lime green "I Heart Space" shirt with a singular goal: "I've seen Endeavour, now I need to see some coffee."
John Kaufman, the co-founder of Truxton's American Bistro in Westchester, welcomed the rush of patrons around 8 a.m. with smiles and handshakes.
As hundreds of people packed intersections and businesses near the space shuttle Endeavour's temporary parking spot, Truxton's became one of several Westchester businesses trying new tactics to capitalize on the shuttle frenzy's windfall.
"We're very proud to have it in our backyard," Kaufman said, as he pointed out the restaurant's long, narrow windows. The business sits on Truxton Avenue, just west of La Tijera Boulevard.
Truxton's sits northeast of the Westchester lot where Endeavour is parked, at La Tijera and Sepulveda boulevards. Crews are working to widen the transporters that will carry Endeavour over the Manchester medians and into Inglewood, a journey that will start around 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Inside Truxton's restaurant, longtime aerospace workers Pat Fitzhenry, 63, and Chuck Boyar, 62, reminisced over coffee and poached egg with crab. The duo met decades ago at the old Hughes Aircraft Co.
As Fitzhenry pushed up the sleeves of his yellow wind breaker to start into his breakfast, he spoke of the crowds who had turned out to revel over the field he loves, the one he dedicated his life to.
"I would love to see all this enthusiasm on a broader support of the space program," Fitzhenry said. "Why does it just have to be when the shuttle drives by?"
Boyar nodded and took a gulp of coffee.
They had made more than $400 by 10 a.m. Friday, and hoped to make more than $1,000 by the time the shuttle leaves at 1:30 p.m. The money will go toward the school's general fund and a fifth-grade overnight trip to Catalina Island, said parent Lynda Modaff, 51, who was staffing the booth.
At the northeast corner of Sepulveda and Manchester, Panera Bread operating partner Scott Levin waved menus at chattering families and bleary-eyed teenagers in hoodies, and handed one to a woman jogging and pushing a stroller. Panera opened an hour and a half early Friday morning to nab more shuttle customers.
"I think it’s going to stay busy until it starts moving," Levin said. "The regulars came in and were like, 'My favorite table is gone.' "
-- Christine Mai-Duc, Andrew Khouri and Marisa Gerber in Westchester
Photo: Colin Sevely-Ortiz, 12, left, and Brandon Taylor, 12, of Hermosa Beach, are overjoyed being near the shuttle in Westchester. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times