Vol. 19,  No.  1 Jan. 12 - 25, 2006


Store Closures Leave Fewer Lunch Options


Two Norwood restaurants have gone out of business, leaving owners and regulars with more questions than answers over what it takes to run a successful business here and whether or not salads and bagels are in the equation.

Café Monte, on Gun Hill Road, and Sun Bagel, around the corner on Jerome Avenue, didn’t share much in common except for a zip code — and perhaps an under appreciated status as alternatives to the fast-food restaurants, delis and pizzerias that dominate area dining options.

Sun Bagel, at 3405 Jerome Ave., closed last December. It was the second bagel shop to occupy the space since Jerry’s closed in 1994 after more than 20 years in business.

It’s scheduled to become a Kennedy Fried Chicken restaurant in February, said the property’s landlord, Richard Iuso. He is president of Moshcorn, a
New Jersey-based company, which owns 15 properties in the neighborhood and has been in business here for 35 years.

Iuso said he has no intention of raising the rent — a neighboring shoe repair store has paid the same under-market rent for years — because he makes enough and likes to support area businesses. He blamed the closure on a change of taste in the neighborhood.

“It’s a different population,” he said, “and people would rather have fried chicken than bagels and lox.”

Whether Café Monte was also out of touch with area tastes is an open question. At 57 E. Gun Hill Rd., it was in a perfect spot to catch the Montefiore Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital lunch crowd. But its niche offerings of miso soup, gourmet sandwiches and Udon noodle bar, weren’t enough to support the restaurant. Its owner, who didn’t want to comment for this article, closed up shop last fall after a year in business.

Janet Omene, a hospital employee who said she was a regular Café Monte customer, praised the restaurant’s alternative cuisine and low-calorie options but said the menu was a little pricey.

“Maybe this just wasn’t the neighborhood for it,” she said. “Maybe if it was in midtown [Manhattan], or Westchester even.”

Landlord Tom Reilly admitted that the rent was high because of its large size—2,700 square feet—but that he couldn’t think of any other reason why it would go broke after the extensive renovations and success the owner has had in other areas of the Bronx. He said that back when it was the Norwood Pub he faced similar challenges keeping a place open without much evening business.

“We tried everything, live music, karaoke,” Reilly said, “but after 24 years we just had to give up.”

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