Friday, April 29, 2011

Bad spirits be gone

351 Northampton Rd, Amherst Gourmet, d/b/a Ginger Garden.

About 35 years ago Steak Out restaurant chain opened perhaps the first franchise allowed in Amherst--although it practically straddles the Hadley line--at 351 Northampton Road . They only lasted about a year but had signed a long-term, iron-clad lease, thus the landlord made out just fine letting such a prime location sit empty.

Prospective tenants had to beat the guaranteed amount coming in from the absentee corporation, thus the owner had no incentive to entertain reasonable offers.

In the late 70s, just after UMass had undergone a dramatic growth spurt, bars in Amherst could serve 18-year-old's, host all-you-can-drink "happy hours" and promote discount drink specials. Back then a liquor license was a permit to print money. So more than a few entrepreneurs risked the high rent and opened a bar in that location targeting students. And they all failed.

Locals--not privy to the high rent etched in stone--started to whisper the location was haunted. Joey D's was the last student bar, and at the very end they had become so desperate for business they advertised 4-for-1 drink specials.

The jinx was broken when China Dynasty opened almost 20 years ago (the owner purchased the building after yet another restaurant failed), but the curse could not be totally denied as China Dynasty closed suddenly a couple years ago.

So best of luck to Ginger Garden, opening soon. May the cycle be once again broken.
After 30 years in business Charlie's tavern in town center suddenly served their last drink. Another proprietor immediately wished to reopen another drinking establishment and ran into the bureaucracy known as Amherst; but it seems they will open soon--just in time for the summer lull.

Restaurants, bars and health clubs. Types of businesses than never need fear the disruptive power of the Internet. Unlike newspapers, record-book-or-video stores.

Food For Thought Books recently announced they were $250,000 behind in payments to suppliers and now hope for salvation via fundraising, kind of like the downtown typewriter shop.Video To Go, an Amherst institution, succumbed to bricks and mortar competition from national chain, Blockbuster Video who later became extinct like the dinosaurs due to Internet competition from Netflix.

And Pleasant Street Theater Video, the last remaining video store in Northampton, also a Valley legend, is up for sale (kind of like JP Morgan trying to sell RMS Titanic moments after she scraped that iceberg.) And will no doubt be replaced by yet another business--probably not a video store.
It's been a fact of life since the days of JP Morgan: The majority of start-up businesses fail to celebrate their second anniversary. But still they come. Such is the cycle of life...and death.


Shel Horowitz - Green/Ethical Marketing Expert said...

Yes, a very hard tine to be running video or bookstores. I'm an occasional patron of both Pleasant St Video and Food for Thought (as well as several other local bookstores)--and as a publishing consultant, I'm very aware of the changing retail channels.

Tom Porter said...

I had my first "driving" date - first time out with a driver's license - at Steak Out, and wore a sharp 1976-vintage polyester sportjacket and wide pastel-&-tinfoil necktie. With my giant steak in front of me and a gal across the table, I thought I was living large...

Anonymous said...

I remember it had an Al Capone-era gangster theme.

Anonymous said...

the Steak Out was where you got your parents to bring you when they visited you at college. That was in the days when the UMass dining commons served "Mystery Meat" once a week.

My family and I still miss China Dynasty -- the scene of many celebrations for us.