Monday, May 1, 2006

T&G: Monty's not closing, sort of, maybe

Actually, the article in the Telegram and Gazette makes it pretty clear that the owners of Monty's Garden are planning on relocating to another site in Leominster if the plans for a Walgreens on the current site of the restaurant are approved. That's great news.

However, the headline on the article (at least the online version) is hopelessly convoluted: "Eatery to move maybe, not shut". It looks like a copy editor or someone slapped a "maybe" in there to hedge against the possibility that Monty's may not move and may in fact shut. I'd have just reworded that to "Eatery may move, not shut", but that's just me. But the subheading is "Monty's to stay in Leominster" which suggests that there is no maybe about it...sigh. Anyway, a couple of excerpts:

Eatery to move maybe, not shut
Monty's to stay in Leominster


LEOMINSTER-- It may be the end of an era, but not the end of Monty's Garden.

The siblings who have run the landmark downtown restaurant since 1998 said a developer's plans to buy and raze the building at 35 Central St. to erect a Walgreens pharmacy will not mean the end of the popular Italian eatery.

"The property is selling, not Monty's Garden and the business," Christine Caisse said Friday morning.


Since reports on the possible demolition of the current building were first published, business has been booming, Ms. Frechette said. But the family spoke out Friday to squelch any perceptions Monty's is going out of business.

The plan, the siblings said, is to relocate if the deal with the developer of the intended Walgreens is approved by the city. The city will be reviewing flood plain issues and property easements, among other elements of the plan. In other words, any action is likely months away.


The arrival of numerous chain restaurants in the region, including the upcoming opening of the Olive Garden restaurant at Orchard Hill Park, has not been a factor in the family's plans, the siblings agreed.

"I think downtown is going to be competition for those chains," Ms. Frechette said. "Everyone knows Leominster is full of restaurants. We have our base. It's up to them to try to take our base from us."

They also see the potential benefit to the corridor if the deal comes together, with improvements to the intersection of Routes 12 and 117, including a traffic signal. The nearly 15,000-square-foot building that would house Walgreens would also be developed to fit into the downtown architecture, Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella said last week.
The article also mentions that the owners' preference is to stay in Leominster if/when they relocate as they already hold a liquor license.

While I'm happy to hear that the family plans on reopening the business at another location, I don't agree with their suggestion that the new chain restaurants will feel the pressure of competing with the existing restaurants, instead of the other way around. The advantage the chain restaurants have is their convenient location near rtes. 2 and 190 on the edges of the city. Shoppers from out-of-town who come to Leominster to shop can now get a dining experience other than fast food on the highway or at the malls and will be less inclined to drive into the city if they are hungry.

Perhaps I am overstating the appeal of Leominster as an eating destination, and the clientele of our restaurants is almost exclusively fellow Leominsterians (Leominsterites? I've never been able to figure that out). But even if that is the case, it seems like the challenge is still on the local restaurants to keep the locals coming back. Maybe as the dean of the local restaurants, Monty's will be immune from that sort of competition, but I still worry about the effect of new chains restaurants on smaller establishments like Lidio's.

As I've written previously, it would be great to see Monty's relocate to the new restaurant space proposed for rte. 117, instead of another national chain.

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