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Letter From Mike and Gayle Ioakimedes Regarding Closing Their Southampton Center Restaurant

Former councilman and his wife are shutting the doors after 33 years and citing difficulties with owners of Southampton Center as one reason for closing.

Following is the email sent to customers late Thursday afternoon about :

Dear Friends,

After 33 years we're closing our doors. That's a difficult thing to write, but what is going to be even more difficult is saying goodbye. Hard to find the words to express the true feeling of friendship that we have for you all. Thank you for everything. So many of you have followed us from location to location; and all of you made us feel like we didn't just have a customer base but a real community. Even though we'll continue to live in Benicia we'll miss the connection we have with you through the restaurant.

We're pulling the plug. We gave it all we had; maybe we even gave too much but we gave it our best shot. No regrets and no second guessing. We thought we had found a real home at this location, but we couldn't make it work here.

We could move the restaurant to another location, but we put everything we've had into this operation. Opening a restaurant or re-locating a restaurant takes a lot. It's not just the money; something might be telling us it is time to move on to something different.

We opened Mike & Gayle's right into the teeth of this recession. First, we were forced to join the exodus of the businesses leaving the old Tannery building.  Then, the economy on every level (national, state, and local) had gone south and business financing had dried up.   Next, we thought we could re-open in 90 to 120 days; instead we were closed for a year, eating up any semblance of a cash reserve we needed to open at a new location.

But we made it and you folks supported us from day one. You did more than support us; you welcomed us back with open arms. You went on and on about how you had missed our homemade sausage, our hashbrowns, the Irish Breakfast, the Hashbrown Supreme, the Mexi Salad, our Cream of Tomato Soup. You were patient with us as we learned our new location and the new retail rhythm here; so different from our downtown locations.

Business is good. Not great but good. Sales are up over last year and we are on track to have one of our best years ever.

So why are we closing?

We bit off more than we could chew.   While sales are good, they are not enough to service our lease obligations. We've done a real good job of re-capturing our old market share and have built upon that but we haven't been able to grow to the point that we could afford the rent.

The rent is more than double what we have paid at any other location, but no complaints. We're adults and we knew the risk when we signed the lease.  We tried robbing Peter to pay Paul but that doesn't work. Like the saying goes, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. 

This isn't a last-minute decision. We've been trying to work with the property owners for about a year now to see if we could come up with something that worked for both parties. It hasn't always been easy. It's been a new experience for us dealing with a large corporation. At our other locations we always dealt with decision makers whenever we had dealings with landlords. Up here we dealt with the local representatives, but the final decisions were made in Houston by "Senior Management."

Not saying any of this is bad or wrong, but for us it's just different.

Long story short, last Friday, senior management pulled the local representative's offer off the table, and Monday senior management confirmed that they were no longer interested in modifying the lease. That's OK. This is business and we understand. Their action, and the way they went about it, made our decision that much easier.

Enough for now. We'll stay in touch and talk some more later. Right now circle your calendars cause it looks like Monday September 3rd will be our last day.   Try and come in and say Hi. And Bye. Until then we'll keep doing things the way we've always done them. We'll talk some more in the next email. 

Thanks again for everything.

Mike & Gayle Ioakimedes

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Aaron Nowling August 17, 2012 at 03:01 PM
With business property values down 35-40%, the Solano Tax assessor has half-stepped at re-evalutation of commercial taxes. Plus, all the owners of the South Hampton shopping center have operated on the greedy side. Neither the owners of the shopping center or the Solano Tax Assessor have fostered a business friendly environment. If things keep going the way they are in this bad economy, California will have no tax base and government services will have to be reduced to a trickle. In a recently released report, California sales tax collection is down by 30% for June 2012 and the governor and legislature want to build a bullet train to nowhere, with no ridership, which will be no faster than AMTRAK and likewise in competition with AMTRAK which is already have financial problems. Citizens have cut their spending, it is time the government cut theirs.
Kathleen Hamilton August 17, 2012 at 03:43 PM
A most regrettable development. Mike and Gayle's has been a special part of the community and irreplaceable with respect to a menu of quality "American" cuisine and companionable ambiance. Wishing owners and staff the very best in whatever endeavors the future holds.

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