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Local News

Berwyn’s Depot District: A work in progress

Recent closings will provide new opportunities for entrepreneurs

Businesses close and/or change in Berwyn's Depot District. On Friday, Over the Rainbow Ice Cream Shop, Brando's Beef and Riddle's Comedy Club are closed. Olive or Twist's restaurant side is closed, but the bar is open.
Businesses close and/or change in Berwyn's Depot District. On Friday, Over the Rainbow Ice Cream Shop, Brando's Beef and Riddle's Comedy Club are closed. Olive or Twist's restaurant side is closed, but the bar is open.

BERWYN – There are more vacant storefronts in Berwyn’s Depot District these days. But like a forest after a fire, something new will be springing up soon.

Riddles Comedy Club, located at 6910 Windsor Ave., recently shut its doors after one year in business. Its next door neighbor, Olive or Twist, has closed it’s restaurant but plans to remain open as a bar.

Just down the street to the east, Brando’s Beef and its next door neighbor, Over the Rainbow Ice Cream Parlor on Windsor, have both closed recently, too.

Statistically, 25 percent of businesses won’t make it past the first year, according to Anthony Griffin, executive director of the Berwyn Development Corp.

Olive or Twist had a good run for two years, Griffin said: They began as a martini bar and then created a relationship with a chef to add a restaurant.

“It was an office building at first, and now it’s a second generation restaurant location,” Griffin said. “That will pique the interest. We actually have had a lot of restaurants call to see that the availability is there.”

BDC optimistic about Depot District’s future

As aesthetically pleasing as the Depot District is, with it’s streetlights, vintage architecture and continuing streetscape plan, it also has it’s challenges, Griffin said.

“The Depot District is a tough retail traffic area,” he said. “ It has light traffic – you don’t have 25,000 to 30,000 cars going by your business. You have to make an effort to pull people into that area ... “

The Depot District remains a work in progress for Berwyn, Griffen said.

“We’re working on a new streetscape, [and] we’re working on getting a grocery store in the old Berwyn Finer Foods [location],” Griffen said. “We’ve had some wins and we’ve had some losses. The important thing is to keep on pushing forward. There’s no doubt it’s a tough retail market.”

For entrepreneurs that come to Berwyn and approach the BDC with a plan to open a business, Griffin said, they are often told they will need to market their business for success.

“We ask them bluntly, what is their marketing plan,” Griffin said. “We let them know they should have a good one.”

Despite the general optimism over what the future holds for the Depot District, the closing of any business still leaves some in the area wondering.

Taz Khatib, manager of Taz Place, 6932 Windsor Ave., has operated his small but well-stocked convenience store for three years now. Before that, the storefront was vacant, and formerly an insurance office. He’s generally always busy, his door opening every few minutes with return customers.

Khatib keeps a finger on the pulse of business in the area and seems to know much about his business neighbors up and down the street. The closings, he said, make him take pause.

“I’m concerned about these things,” he said.

New business to open

Marty Mendocino owns Olive or Twist, as well as the building that housed the bar and Riddle’s Comedy Club. Olive or Twist may have closed as a restaurant, he said, but the bar is still open.

And, Mendocino said, don’t write off Olive or Twist as a dining destination just yet. Mendocino said he plans to bring back an old Berwyn favorite – Wishbone – which was previously open as part of FitzGerald’s night club on Roosevelt Road.

And for something completely different, he said, Riddle’s is being remodeled to accommodate a new area destination: Hookah Buzz II, a hookah bar where people can sit and have a cool smoke and conversation.

Businesses come, businesses go, but memories are forever. The Brando’s Beef website now displays a farewell message and an explanation for closing: One of the owners will dedicate himself full-time to his career as a pipefitter and the other owner is opening another restaurant, Bubba’s Place, at Ogden and Ridgeland avenues.

Brando’s owners just may be using those memories as their own marketing plan.

“The wonderful memories and solid friendships will continue on, just in new spaces and places,” their farewell message read. “ Make sure to stop by Bubba’s Place when it opens in a few weeks to grab a bite and say ‘Hello.’”

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