This is a sad story about a close friend and more recently a client. I have written before about her business. That article was a hopeful invitation to experience Moss’ following her Restaurant Impossible revamp. Today I am writing an obituary about the business and perhaps for downtown Elyria as this is the second Broad Street restaurant to close its doors in as many weeks. Now there will be zero.
Sandi Laubenthal announced yesterday that she is giving up and closing Moss’. The restaurant is on Broad Street in what is left of downtown Elyria. Before I moved my office to Westlake, we shared a common parking lot. I’ve had many lunches and dinners there when my wife traveled for business as well as more than a few drinks. It served as the location of choice for many Lorain County Bar Association events. The good news that it won’t be over until the end of business on April 13. There is still time to enjoy a great meal and a better bottle of wine.
Elyria won’t just be losing another business. It will be losing a tireless warrior who tried anything to make downtown Elyria a destination. Sandi understood that her success was tied to the success of the city. If it did not thrive, neither could any business located there. If you don’t agree with her, take a look around at all the vacant storefronts. At one time not only were they filled, but the upper floors contained shopkeepers and offices.
I believe the city is partly responsible for this. Last year they got off to a great start closing the bars that were contributing to the after hours crime in the downtown historic district. That is where it began and ended. Functionally, all they did was add more empty space to Broad Street. The negative publicity convinced even more of the diminishing middle class to stay away. No visible effort is underway to replace the shuttered bars with business that can bring quality customers into the city.
Compare Elyria with Chagrin Falls. The cities are physically very similar. Each even has a big waterfall, although Elyria’s is prettier. One is a destination packed with eateries, shops, and has a thriving middle and professional class. The other is none of the above. The best thing for Moss’ would have been competition. If more people come to the city looking for a place to eat and shop, all merchants benefit. That was never the case for Sandi. For years Moss’ had to be its own destination. There is nowhere else to go, and there is nothing else to do in Elyria unless you belong to one of the clubs. Long ago business moved to the mall. Now even that stands empty.
If someone reopens at Moss’ location, it can not be a step forward, unless the new owner will fight for Elyria anew.
PS: A few years back I represented a client who is a city official in an eastern suburb. While in my office he related that his city just undertook a program to upgrade its downtown business district around a small waterfall with some level of success. I told him that Elyria has a waterfall. He asked, “Where? There aren’t any signs.” I then walked him out of my office, and around the corner to the waterfall. He wanted to know why the city isn’t taking advantage of this wonderful asset for the benefit of local businesses? Excellent question. Why?