Plight of Tucson's iconic small businesses
Owners say customers shouldn't forget them
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Businesses and restaurants can come and go. But when the ones that've been here for decades start disappearing, Tucsonans take notice. Owners say the economy, city regulations and themselves can share some blame. But they say customers can also play a part.
Magic Carpet Golf, Saguaro Corners restaurant, De Anza Drive-in Theater, Cafe Terra Cotta, and, now, Grill restaurant and the adjacent Red Room lounge. Fallen on hard times, each of these landmarks have closed in recent years. Grill, a 24-hour downtown diner, served its last meal Monday night.
“It's really sad,” said Grill customer Joshua Butcher. “It feels really tragic like there's something completely missing. We just assumed it would be here for 20 years. I assumed my grandkids would be coming.”
KGUN9 News asked: Why did this happen? “We are out of money. It's as simple as that,” said Faye McCorry, who works at Grill. “People stopped coming.”
Workers say they're frustrated more customers came only after they heard the news the restaurant would close. “A little bit because I feel like we put out the signals that we needed more people to come in,” McCorry said, citing flyers that had been printed and messages posted on the diner’s Facebook page.
KGUN9 News found other struggling restaurants--ones that have been around for years--share the concern, including Casa Molina and El Parador. Owners acknowledge the role of the tough economy and their own responsibility, but say there's another factor.
“Do you feel like people know you, they know that you're here. But, at the same time, you're forgotten?” asked reporter Kevin Keen. “Yes, that's exactly what happened,” said Carlos Portillo, owner of La Fuente Restaurant. “We have tons and tons of customers, but they say, 'Oh, we only go there when we have family from out of town.' I always tell them, 'Don't wait till you have family from out of town. Come once in a while.'”
La Fuente has livened up North Oracle Road for 51 years. This year, it's facing bankruptcy although Portillo said it won't close.
“Would that make a lot of difference, if customers started coming just a little bit more like that?” Keen asked. “It definitely would make a difference. You come just one more time out of the year, that'll be a big help.”