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Published: Friday, 9/10/2010

Patrons still fill local restaurants

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

There's been at least two casualties this summer, but overall, the area's restaurant retail scene surprisingly keeps moving forward.

"We haven't lost more, and that's surprised me. What with the economy, I thought the mortality rate would be up," Sam Zyndorf, a retail expert with the Toledo office of commercial real estate firm Signature Associates Inc., said.

At the end of August, the Max & Erma's restaurant at 1391 Arrowhead Rd. in Maumee closed after a new owner, Denver-based American Blue Ribbon Holdings LLC, sought rent concessions and ended up shutting nine Max & Erma's locations in five states.

Also closing this summer was the Lone Star Steakhouse restaurant at 5640 Airport Hwy.

On the positive side, Hisham Zrien, owner of Table Forty-4 in downtown Toledo, plans to break ground in two weeks on a new restaurant on Central Avenue near King Road.

"It will open hopefully in early spring and will be similar to Table Forty-4," Mr. Zrien said.

Also recently, Marco's Pizza founder Pat Giammarco purchased property at 609-611 Monroe St. downtown.

Mr. Giammarco was unavailable for comment, but local retail experts said he plans to put a restaurant on the site.

Pete Shawaker, a retail expert with CB Richard Ellis/Reichle Klein, said fewer traditional restaurants are opening, but growth by fast-food sites is still strong.

"Sonic, KFC, and Wendy's have all bought sites in northwest Ohio and the broader metro Toledo market in the last two years," he said. "People have to eat, obviously, and those restaurants are at the price points that people want."

A chain new to the Toledo market, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, is now trying to secure sites in Maumee, Perrysburg, Bowling Green, and Findlay, franchise owner Jason Yono said.

A year ago, when Five Guys opened in the Westgate Village Shopping Center, its only restaurant in the area, Mr. Yono said that he and his partners wanted a second location in either Sylvania or Perrysburg.

Mr. Yono said he wants to open a second Five Guys by year's end.

Mr. Shawaker said that while fast-food sites are strong, the Toledo area still may have too many casual sit-down restaurants.

"I think we'll continue to see more closings, but those that survive in three or four years will be stronger."

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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