Another Bridgeport business shut it's door
Posted in the Trumbull Forum
#1 Dec 30, 2013
RIDGEPORT -- Downtown Bridgeport bid adieu to French toast on Friday.
Jeff Burr, whose Take Time Cafe on State Street for 12 years served breakfast staples like an end-of-the week French toast special and lunch, has closed.
"The business has changed downtown and the landlord's doubled my rent," said Burr, who will now focus only on catering.
As Burr explained it, Take Time's closure is another sign of the growing pains that come with revitalizing Bridgeport's downtown.
He said his landlord -- Forstone Capital, one of the neighborhood's major investors -- had in February wanted Burr to start paying $2,900 for 1,700 square feet. He said his rent had already been gradually doubled over the past five years, so he did not renew his lease.
Simultaneously, Burr said, there are new dining options downtown competing for business, from Bagel King to restaurants that needed to offset sluggish dinner sales by catering to the lunch crowd.
"Everybody became competition," Burr said.
Or, as one reviewer on the popular Yelp website put it last May after a visit to Take Time, "This place did have an interesting menu but mostly wraps and sandwiches which seems to be pretty common down here."
A Forstone spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
Phil Kuchma, who has helped spearhead the wave of new development downtown, said of Forstone, "They're intelligent guys who know what they're doing. I don't think they're out to just push people away."
At the same time, he acknowledged Burr is no newcomer, either.
"To be in business for 12 years, you have to know how to run one," Kuchma said.
He suggested downtown landlords work hard to offer more variety, so that rather than competing for customers with the same offerings, eateries provide diners an abundance of choices.
Burr hails from the city's seaside Black Rock neighborhood and has been active in the community. He is a Republican member of the city's Harbor Commission.
Councilwoman Susan Brannelly, D-130, who represents Black Rock and knows Burr, said she was very sorry to hear he had shuttered his cafe.
"He was definitely an anchor there," Brannelly said. Still, she said, if in fact Forstone is confident enough in the area to demand more rent -- even if it risks losing tenants -- that is a good sign of the resurgence in demand.
"Generally, the health of the downtown is much improved," she said.
Based on recent history, however, it's still fragile. After a much-touted grand opening six months earlier, Clyde Ripka shuttered his eponymous market, located in the Arcade, just before Christmas.
"The traffic wasn't there, and we were burning money," Ripka said at the time, adding he probably should have closed a month earlier.
Burr said, "I probably hung around a year too long."
"I poured 12 years of my life into the place, so it was sad," he said. "But I'm actually excited about being able to develop my catering and branch into other towns I couldn't before. It's an exciting new step."
Since: Aug 10
#2 Dec 30, 2013
Burr is a good man. His landlord may be upset for increasing the rent. I hope that nobody will move into it.
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