In yet another sign the East End is gentrifying, a chain restaurant wants to move in.
Yes, it’s a fast food joint. But Moe’s Southwest Grill is moving into the Sagamore, where condos sell for more than a few hundred grand. This isn’t a sign the Sagamore is failing. It’s a sign someone has some some serious money, as the franchise requires a $1.5 million net worth and $600,000 liquid cash available.
This is not a story about Henry B’s closing. (I’m sorry for the staff affected, but it was not a popular place. In a town with 1,000 Italian restaurants, fancy and high end is generally not going to work.) This is a story about the chains jumping Jefferson Rd. into the Inner Loop.
Chains take fewer risks than independent business owners. And when they do take risks, they’re very calculated. Tim Horton’s recently made its first push into downtown Rochester after 10 years in the market.
“It was a mix of the proper location and right opportunity. We know downtown is being revitalized and we want to be a part of that,” said Adam Grandmont, Tim Horton’s district manager of operations. He sees a chain moving to the neighborhood as a big vote of confidence.
The danger of chains swooping in is an area loses its identity. I will not be happy if Matthews East End Grill sells out to Applebee’s or Spot Coffee becomes Starbucks or Veneto morphs into Olive Garden. A neighborhood’s soul is in its unique architecture, streets and businesses.
In Buffalo, Elmwood Village neighbors freaked out when Panera announced it was moving in. Even though the chain was taking over a Blockbuster, residents worried about the character of their enclave. The debate made me think about a conversation I had with the owner of a historic W. Main St. church who wants to tear it down to put up a dollar store. “Panera isn’t coming here,” he said, pointing to the low-income housing going up nearby.
At least Henry B’s is being subdivided to include both Moe’s and a local bistro. (By the way, Havana Moe’s cigar shop across the street has got to be throwing a fit right now. It’s been around longer than Moe’s Southwest. I can see some drama ahead.)
While I don’t think there’s any danger of East Ave. becoming W. Ridge Rd., we have to keep an eye on the chains. On the one hand, they’re a sign of success. (Anyone see the Dairy Queen lines?!) On the other hand, they’re a sign of gentrification…and the generic.