The name is gone (but the roof remains)


Pizza Hut closed in the town nearby.

The closing wasn’t really a surprise. About the only time this location seemed to have anything remotely resembling a strong wave of business was during the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet hours. On the rare times Terry and I were there, I don’t recall us making any impulse purchases from the menu to add to the check in a significant increase of revenue way. Nor do I recall seeing any other table with dessert cookies being delivered. Pretty standard orders from the list of specials and smallest of profit margins. The parking wasn’t great either.

All in all, there were a lot of signs pointing toward the closing. And many of the signs were lined up before you even began to consider that there are better pizza options, at places offering theirs at the same price or lower (and with far better menus of other items), that didn’t involve any additional time in the car.

The closing wasn’t a surprise.

On the other hand… Terry and I out and about running a few errands, heading down the main road, suddenly looking off to the side and spotting the iconic roof in place with all of the letters and signage on and around the property removed… that was a surprise.

A few years ago, I began a project called Local Friends for Local Business. The idea of it has never been to stop people from using national chains of anything. There are times and places for the restaurants, stores, entertainment and more provided by the large-mega-location-in-every-state-with-the-same-footprint establishments. Instead, I had noticed—and several friends agreed—that there were lots of places close to where we lived that we had never brought into consideration. We never looked for them… drove right past them… hadn’t set foot inside the doors of them… and yet they were often exactly the types of places that created the greatest memories when we did notice them or search them out when on vacations.

Since that effort began, I have seen plenty of places close the business doors forever. Places Terry and I have visited, and places friends have recommended. Places that we absolutely loved. Places we had been visiting for years and places that we had discovered with the monthly challenges of Local Friends.

In some cases, the closings haven’t been due to lacking support. In fact—without naming names—I know of at least one place that was a family business where the kids simply didn’t have the passion to carry it on for another generation. The owners just retired. Happily.

But in many cases, those doors did indeed close due to the lack of support from customers. And here’s the weird part… some of them never stood a chance.

That Pizza Hut? Yeah, it had a prime location along a main street. People knew it was there. The neighborhood made its decision, and that decision favored the pizza at other restaurants.

There’s a plaza basically across the street from the shuttered and now nameless red roof. In there is a restaurant that Terry and I came across when we moved to the neighborhood. Or, more accurately, was a restaurant. It’s closing too.

Pizza is on their menu, but they were really known for some other things. Amazing warm bread, served with a garlic butter glaze and balsamic vinegar dip. Chocolate wine served to those of age as a complimentary end to the meal. Cotton candy. Cotton candy brought with the check. Nice nice nice touches.

They were also known for inconsistent service, an ongoing decline of food appearance and quality, menu changes that removed some of the greatest and most popular dishes, and you see where this is going…

When everyone you talk to that loves the place mentions that they all order the same two items from the menu every time they walk in because they were popular and delicious and signature-level quality, and those items are no longer there… when those items were part of the reputation of the place that people loved… when the bread moves from fresh and hot and delicious to hard and stale and seems like it is left over from four days ago… trouble appears to be building on the horizon.

I don’t like seeing any business close. I especially don’t like seeing it happen to places and owners and staff that are passionate about what they do and what they offer.

But… it does seem to sting less when everything points to a location having been granted every opportunity to succeed. When given a location and public awareness, the external excuses start to weaken.

Chances are good that at some point, possibly not too far off in the future, a renovation will be made. A property will be purchased, contractors will be brought in, and all recognizable features will be changed. Maybe the new will have the different but still quickly identified curves and colors of a chain of something-or-others. Maybe the new won’t even be a restaurant.

Whatever it is, my best wishes will go along with the ribbon cutting. I hope they do well. I will pay attention and investigate and possibly offer them some business. But more than anything else, I hope they open the doors with a passion for their offerings and that they are given a chance to get community support.


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