A Love Story Plays On at the Vault Restaurant

By Sue Moore

This is a love story, writ large by two young people who wait tables at The Vault in Vicksburg.

Hector Sanchez, a medical doctor waiting for his residency assignment, is from Mexico.

Chelsey Downs Sanchez, the daughter of Kelly and Dave Downs of Vicksburg, has a degree in business and marketing.

They met at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, but it was not your usual courtship.

Chelsey was a freshman, Hector a junior. He admired her from afar, but she didn’t seem to notice. What to do? Every week for a month, he sent her a puzzle box of ten to fifteen letters to put together, which in the end, turned out to be a poem.

Hector and Chelsey Downs Sanchez work together at The Vault.

The final box had a padlock with a combination that she had to figure out. The clue was her favorite day, her birthday.

The last box didn’t reveal his identity, nor had any of the preceding messages. This box had a note that she could open it with the combination, the numbers of her special day.

She knew then who it was from as she had casually mentioned her birthdate in some conversation months before.

Opening the box, she found a wooden heart and a CD. She started to cry, than accepted a date with Hector, and the rest as they say, is history.

Of course, the path of true love does not always run smoothly. On her birthday, they traveled to Chicago for dinner and a play. Wanting to impress Chelsey with his big city acumen, Hector had wrangled cheap tickets for “Wicked” from his brother who worked on the staff.

He took her to Smith & Wollensky’s for dinner. They sat down and checked the menu where the cheapest entrée was $85. Knowing this was way over budget for a fledgling med student, she said, “Let’s order a side salad and an appetizer and then leave.” The bill for that alone, came to $67. Then, they went to MacDonald’s to complete the meal.

Now, Hector wanted her to be more than a friend because he liked her personality, her thriftiness, and her morals. To ask her to be his girlfriend, the tradition is a guy presents two roses – one white and one red – and the girl makes the choice. White is to remain friends; red is the decision to become your girlfriend. Chelsey accepted both roses and off they went for new adventures.

After graduating from Olivet, Hector returned to Mexico for medical school at Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara for three years. The separation was difficult, but he managed to return to see Chelsey about every six months and they spoke by phone most every day.

He studied so hard they felt the need to break up her senior year, but soon they realized they couldn’t stay apart. He came to her graduation in 2010 and they were engaged in December that year and married in 2011 in Vicksburg.

A young doctor’s life is stressful, just from the monumental commitment of time and studies, but off they went to Portland, Maine, for his first rotation. Then it was on to Illinois, Puerto Rico, Mexico and finally New York, where every minute for Hector was spent studying hard for his board certification, which he passed in January, 2013.

Chelsey taught English as a second language on many of their cross-country stops but in New York, she worked at a deli, which she didn’t like.

What really worked for her was a stint at Moody Bible College’s radio station in Chicago, learning skills she could use wherever they land for Hector’s residency.

Now, they are back in Vicksburg where Chelsey grew up, waiting until June for Hector to find out where his residency will be.

Chelsea and Hector Sanchez with owner, Clint Powell, at The Vault.

Until then, you will find both of them serving at The Vault. The owners needed extra help for Valentine’s Day and the two had just arrived in town on Feb. 13, only to have breakfast at the newly opened restaurant.

Clint Powell offered them a job for the next day and they have been enjoying it ever since.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, but we love working as a team,” says Chelsey. “We’re together, this place is awesome, we can see each other a lot, and it’s a healthy place to be. The cooks have a passion for their work and the whole staff works as a team. Powell and his partner in the business Michelle Snook, set the tone. They make everyone feel they are valued. It just feels like home.”

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