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NEIGHBORS : Officially Mom : Businesses with maternal names tend to have masculine owners. But not Mama's Used Cars in Ventura.


With Mother's Day coming up Sunday, I figured it was about time I located Mom--the official "Mom" of Ventura County, that is.

But where to start?

Mom's Auto Parts in Thousand Oaks seemed as good a place as any. I called and asked to speak with the owner. A deep, gruff man's voice came over the other end of the phone. It was owner Dave Golden.

"You wouldn't be Mom, would you?" I asked, getting the expected, "no" in response. "So is there a Mom?" "No," Golden said again. "When the business was originally started many, many years ago, before I was here, the guy who owned it named it Mom's because his mom loaned him the money for it. I just never changed it."

Darn. Where to next?

After consulting with my telephone book I tried "Mother's Deli and More" in Ventura and spoke with owner Benny Hoffman. "Is there a mother of Mother's Deli and More?" I asked. I hadn't anticipated his reply at all and was shocked to discover that mother was, in fact, a man.

"Actually, the previous owner, the guy who opened this place, was a cook in the Navy," Hoffman said. "As a cook, the soldiers called him Mother. His last name was Moore. So he called the place Mother Moore's Deli. When we bought it three years ago we changed it to Mother's Deli and More. It still sounds the same, it's the same flavor, and there's still 'more."'

I was getting a little discouraged at this point, so I took some time out from the search to find out as much about Mom as possible--just to have an idea what to expect if and when I located her. I figured I'd learn something about her if the locals could tell me what advice their moms gave them as they were growing up.

The responses were varied--18% said "Wear clean underwear"; 12% said, "Just do your best"; another 12% said, "Don't lie"; 6% said, "Don't make promises you can't keep"; and one guy said, "Mom didn't tell me nothing."

To say the least, I was intrigued. My spirits were renewed and so was my search. It was on to Mama Concha's Kitchen in Thousand Oaks.

"There isn't really a mama," said owner Jamie Ortiz. "The guy who used to own the place gave it that name . . . I don't know where he got it. People started to call my wife Mama, but she stays home most of the time, so she's not really Mama right now."

Close, very close, but not quite. So there I was, trying to accept the fact that I wouldn't find Ventura County's official Mom, when I spotted Mama's Used Cars in Ventura. It's actually hard to miss, I admit, with that pink and lavender decor.

I phoned and a man answered. "Is there really a Mama?" I asked doubtingly. "Yes," he said. "She's across the street buying a gift." Just as I'd imagined her. He said he'd take my number and have her call back. I waited. Finally, the phone rang. It was Mama Darlene Terp.

She was very friendly, called me "honey" several times, told me a little about the family history--Mama's Used Cars is on the lot formerly occupied by Granny's Campers.

"So, do people around here really call you Mom?" I asked. "Yes, they all call me Mom," she said. "There was even an 85-year-old man in here--he got tears in his eyes and said, 'Honey, I haven't been able to call anyone Mama in 70 years."'

If she's good enough for him, she's good enough for me.

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