Closing Time: After Nearly a Decade, Parkside to Shut Down
Owner cites sluggish economy, personal reasons.
Kristine Kester's father, Walter, would walk around the block once a week with her daughter, Sadie, for breakfast at Parkside Coffee and Grill. Kester called it their "Sunday date."
Those "Sunday dates" will soon be over. At least as they know them.
Parkside owner Frank Ferraro will close shop for good Sunday. Blame the sluggish economy, he said.
"I don't think everyone can survive in this little town the way things are now," he said Wednesday.
Ferarro decided to shut down the restaurant about three weeks ago amid slow sales, family issues and personal burnout. He said he'll miss his staff and regular customers. His sister and business partner, Christina, said customers considered them "part of the family."
"I've had people in tears when I told them" about closing the restaurant, she said.
Ron Jobeless Sr. was especially upset about the decision. He said a group of six to eight older men from the borough spent most mornings sipping coffee and discussing the news at Parkside.
"It's just something I'm going to miss," Jobeless said. "We've been debating all day where we're going to go from here. We may end up in Dunkin Donuts or something."
Ferarro, 42, never expected to enter the restaurant business. He spent most of his pre-Parkside life as a traveling salesmen, flying across the country for months out of the year hocking industrial parts.
But he came to a realization after years of tasting southern cuisine.
"Food is really bad down there," he said. "I said, 'Jeez, for a traveling salesman, you sure do eat [poorly].'"
Then Ferarro saw an ad in the newspaper. Alps Deli was for sale. Soon, he purchased it from Michael Alps, despite its less-than-stellar condition and having zero restaurant experience.
Ferarro said what was supposed to be an eight-week renovation job took six months to complete since the place was in worse shape than he realized.
"Things don't always go as planned," he said. "That's the first thing I learned in the restaurant business. There were all kinds of problems."
Ferraro said the delay didn't hurt his reopening, however. "We had greet reception," he said.
Ferraro hopes the location's closing wont hurt its market value. He plans to either sell or rent out the 100-year-old building, and believes it still could thrive under the right leadership.
"Someone will have the inspiration to do their own thing and keep it going for the community," he said. "This place is not going to vanish. It's going to be here."
Parkside faced several challenges over the years, Ferraro said.
He thought the business' temporary switch from a deli to a restaurant that served dinner two years ago was a "half-hearted effort." The restaurant didn't have the right menu, he said, or enough outside lighting. The opening of Basil Castrovinci Associates nextdoor didn't help, either, as it cut Parkside's parking lot in half.
Oh, and then the economy stepped on a banana peel. Dunkin Donuts opened in 2009, too, taking a share of Parkside's coffee buyers. But Ferraro refused to blame the nationwide franchise for his restaurant's demise.
"Listen, it's a free world," he said. "In other words, you can't tell an individual, 'No, you can't open a Dunkin Donuts.' That's what competition is all about. But the Dunkin Donuts didn't really affect us.
"We've spent a lot of money and a lot of effort into this place."
Some customers said Wednesday that they appreciated Ferraro's effort. Susan Jackson called it "probably one of the nicest places in town." Ferraro said many have told him Parkside will be missed.
"We're touched by how the customers are reacting," he said. "We kind of sensed that from them because we've become part of their family, and vice versa. We're not on a highway here where strangers come in. It's the same people all the time. We realize that we're part of the community. It's just that, right now, with the way the economy is, we have no choice."
Kester wished Parkside could find a way to keep its kitchen running. She didn't want to see the "Sunday dates" end.
"Where is my daughter going to go eat breakfast with her grandfather?" she said.
Editor's note: Click here for a story on Parkside we posted months ago.