August 01, 2005

location, location, location

When you own a business, location doesn't matter so much if you do manufacturing or "niche" work. Customers will find you. But, if you want to own a deli or a gas station, location is vital to your success.

In the small shopping plaza where I work there is one unit in the opposite corner that has changed owners quite a few times in the past eight years. For the past several years it's been three differant Chinese restaurants. The first two -- with forgettable names -- tried and failed. The new one -- it openned about four months ago -- is called Lucky Corner.

In a nearby strip of shops, called Red Bush Plaza, just off of the main road is a unit that used to be Richie's Texas Chili & Deli. Richie was a great guy, but he had horrible food except for his award-winning chili. He had a great location on the Post Road in Milford (next door to us) and, throughout the '70s and '80s, did great business.

About eight years ago the strip we were in was bought by Town Fair Tire and we all had to find a new locale. We, being a print shop, weren't as location-dependent as Richie was. My boss chose our current spot. Richie chose a bad spot. If he hadn't died of cancer six years ago his business would have died five years ago. Hope yer, Richie!

The unit was empty for some time until along came Tom and his Max's New York Deli.

Tom's food was worse than Richie's -- to me, anyway. He had the basic Boar's Head selection and, with a good location, could have done a brisk business. But he was in a bad spot and he didn't even have Richie's chili to save him. Oh, he had chili, but it wasn't Richie's chili. I rarely ate there, and when I did I usually regretted it. Everything was greasy. I'd order a grilled ham and cheese with tomato on rye and threre'd be liquid dripping from the thing as I tried to eat it. Tom never built up a good customer base and, somewhere, he just stopped caring.

Most of his money was in his free delivery. Sometimes he had an employee, but usually it was just Tom and a sign that read "Back in 5 minutes". About six months ago I noticed that Max's New York Deli had gone dark.

About four months ago my old boss asked me if I knew what had become of Tom. "No," I said, "why do you ask?".

Apparently he'd been living in his car and the store for some time, he was a few months behind in his rent and he'd, well... disappeared. The police were on a manhunt.

Two months ago the unit re-opened as Emilio's Italian Deli & Bakery. They've been dark for the past week and a half. I start to wonder if prospective business owners at a rental property ever ask whatever happened to the previous tenant.

At least Lucky Corner is still there. For now.

Posted by Tuning Spork at August 1, 2005 11:33 PM | TrackBack

There has been a succession of unsuccessful Chinese restaurants in our strip mall. Odd, really, since we have a Mexican, a Rib bar, a Subway, and a pizza restaurant too, and they've all been there for years...maybe the neighborhood is allergic to won tons?

Posted by: Susie at August 2, 2005 08:31 PM

Maybe it's 'cuz Chinese menus are so similar that makes it hard to grab a clientel. Chinese food eaters, I think, tend to be loyal to their favorite. If a new one one opens, they'll try it. If it isn't up to snuff then they wont be back a second time. If it's up to snuff then they'll come back everytime. Chinese and doughnuts are probably the hardest kinds of restaurants to get off the ground.

I just realized that there are no Chinese food franchises a la Taco Bell re: Mexican. Hmmmm. An idea is germinating....

Posted by: Tuning Spork at August 2, 2005 09:35 PM

That is a really very sad story.

Posted by: RP at August 3, 2005 03:55 PM
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