Meet your merchant: Alta Sierra Pizza and Grill |

Meet your merchant: Alta Sierra Pizza and Grill

For Sovannavy Aing, customer service always comes first.

“Everything is the customer,” she said. “Keeping and making them happy, and making good food.”

Aing and her close-knit family run Alta Sierra Pizza and Grill, formerly Larry and Lena’s Pizza, offering freshly baked pizza, hot sandwiches and salad. All six employees are family members, including Aing’s co-owner and husband Ath Heng and daughters Chakriya “Riya” Heng and Chornay Heng.

Customers are referenced by name during the busy lunch rush; on-the-house drinks are offered to a waiting couple. Televisions flank arcade games and an adjacent banquet room waits for birthday parties and group meetings.

“Customer satisfaction is our priority,” Riya Heng reiterates as she stresses the importance that the restaurant be a family-friendly gathering place.

The family bought the establishment two years ago and recently changed the name, feeling like they’d built a strong enough reputation on their own.

“We changed the name to make it specific for Alta Sierra,” said Sophanna “Phanna” Chev, Ang’s nephew and store manager.

The new name eliminates confusion with the take and bake pizzeria in Penn Valley, which is unrelated to their store.

Running a business is natural for the family — they owned a jewelry store in their native Cambodia and worked for Ath Heng’s brother’s doughnut shop in Los Angeles when they first came to this country.

Ath Heng immigrated in 2003 and his wife and daughters followed in 2006.

In Cambodia, education is costly, Riya Heng explained. “We came to live the dream, for our dreams,” the Sierra College student said.

Chev, who moved to Nevada County in 2004, learned of the opportunity to buy Larry and Lena’s Pizza. He shared the information with the family, who packed up their things, moved to Alta Sierra and bought the business and a house.

“Everything started rushing,” remembered Riya Heng. “It was a big change.”

Both she and her mother love to cook and combined the interest with their business knowledge.

“The skills you have are still your skills,” said Chev of the change from retail to food. “It’s just a different point of view.”

What the family likes best about being business owners is the opportunity to meet people.

Plus, “we always want to be our own boss,” Riya Heng said.

The family keeps in touch with relatives in Cambodia through weekly phone calls.

Tenacity has allowed the family to thrive in a difficult economy.

“Everybody works hard,” Riya Heng said, while noting the economy has affected all businesses, including theirs.

“The economy will grow,” she added.

Aing thinks a clean environment with fresh products is key to success, while Chev credits word of mouth from satisfied customers.

A great location doesn’t hurt.

“We love this place. Every neighbor is so friendly and nice,” said Aing.

In some places, the family gets funny looks because they are Asian, but not here, Riya Heng noted.

“A small town is a good place to live, a good neighborhood, what else do you want?” asked Chev.

To Aing, keeping the business in the family is a high priority.

“Family comes first, no matter what,” Riya Heng agreed.

The family is not opposed to opening another business in the future; for now, they want to continue to focus on education, each other and providing high quality product and great customer service.

“It’s not just business, we have it here also,” said Chev, touching his heart.

To contact Reader Liaison Angela Diaz, e-mail or call (530) 477-4203.

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