The Prospector bar and restaurant has served its prime rib and fried chicken dinners at the corner of Junipero Avenue and Seventh Street—where dive bar lovers, karaoke superstars and local musicians also showcased their work—since 1965.

But soon, the building will be split into two businesses after the sale of the property is completed.

Hilco Development Services is acquiring the building, which was listed for sale for $3 million in 2022. The Signal Hill-based firm is planning to adaptively reuse the building, but when it reopens it will be split to accommodate two new businesses, according to Cameron Hildreth, the firm’s principal and project manager.

The new tenants will include a new bar and restaurant called MAZ from the family that operated La Cieba, a Mexican and Central American comfort food establishment that has sold its pupusas with bagged sides of curtido and other classics since 2007, and a to-be-determined coffee shop, Hildreth said in an interview.

Hildreth said he was happy that the new building will include Long Beach businesses like MAZ, which will be run by Abel Salazar and his sister, Ziboney, whose family operated La Ceiba for the past 15 years.

Salazar said that his parents are retiring and La Ceiba, which was asked to relocate from its current storefront at 400 E. Anaheim Street because Hilco is trying to develop it into a seven-story mixed-income housing project, will close.

MAZ will be named after the family’s first restaurant, which his parents ran at the corner of Fourth Street and Coronado Avenue when he was a child. The name is an acronym for his parents’ three children, Michelle, Abel and Ziboney.

“In all honesty, I’m ready for it,” Salazar said of the fresh start. “It’s like turning a page to a new chapter, you can’t stay in that chapter for the rest of your life.”

While the second tenant is still to be determined, Hildreth said it was important to his team to have local Long Beach operators lease the spaces.

Just because The Prospector will soon be gone, it won’t be forgotten.

One of the doorways to The Prospector restaurant. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Hildreth said there is talk of preserving parts of the restaurant. That could include a mural inside the new businesses that shows the frontier-themed building, and additions to MAZ’s menu, like The Prospector’s prime rib.

The Salazars have had a twisting journey since opening their first location as restaurant operators in the city. The original MAZ was shuttered after Michelle was murdered by her boyfriend as a teenager, which ultimately led to its closure as their parents dealt with depression, Salazar said.

When La Ceiba originally opened on Seventh Street, Salazar remembered being homeless after losing their house in 2009 because of the collapse of the housing market.

The family slept in the storage room on concrete floors with blankets and considered closing the restaurant as the economy struggled to recover. Then they put a large sign propped up on the back of an old, red Ford F-150 advertising 99-cent pupusas and business began to flood in.

“I remember we were driving down to Mexico and we got to about Irvine when the staff called and said ‘You need to come back, there are a lot of people,’” Salazar said. “That’s what saved us.”

Like many businesses, they were blindsided by the COVID-19 pandemic. They lost multiple long-time customers and employees to the virus and moved away from their original home at Seventh Street and Nebraska Avenue.

A lot has changed for the Salazars but the old red Ford F-150 that used to hold the 99-cent pupusa sign is still parked behind the shop.

MAZ will continue to sell pupusas as part of a Monday-through-Friday menu that will include small selections from Mexican, Honduran, Salvadorian and American cuisine. The American portion will pay homage to The Prospector with prime rib, burgers and other staples.

The new home will include a full bar because the purchase of the building will include its alcohol license and its entertainment permit, which Salazar said his family hopes to utilize for its karaoke nights and also more traditional entertainment like mariachi and bachata performers.

Weekends will offer brunch and Salazar hopes to use the entertainment permit to make MAZ into a destination for things like UFC fights and other sports. Salazar said he’s already picked a muralist and he’s hoping a design can be worked out to further honor The Prospector, but the plan hasn’t been completed.

“I am sad The Prospector is shutting down; it will always be in our hearts, but it’s a great opportunity for us to be in that new location,” Salazar said.

Salazar said he hopes that MAZ will be open by November but first, the family will have to close La Ceiba, something that he expects will happen by September.

The idea for MAZ’s name came from his parents, Salazar said.

“When they said it, I remember they were getting sad and tearing up and I was like ‘Woah, OK,’” he said.

Salazar said there will likely be a picture of the parent’s three children somewhere in the restaurant so everyone will be able to see them together.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.