Being forced to move their restaurant from a longtime location on Main Street Newmarket will be a significant hit to the family business at the wrong time, Made in Mexico owner Janet Bravo said.
Their landlord sold the building at 185 Main St S. where the popular Mexican restaurant has operated for 11 years, she said, and they initially had expected they could continue to rent the space.
“It was scary for us as a family because it’s our livelihood. But we have a team of people who have worked for us long-term that we’re almost more worried about than ourselves,” she said.
However, the restaurant is now preparing to move next door, into a building that has gone unoccupied for a decade, Bravo said. The move will happen in late September, with the restaurant closing for a time to prepare the new, empty space.
“We could barely afford to move … At least now we can continue to move forward.”
When landlord Benny Soscia initially decided to sell the building, it was offered to her family, but Bravo said they were not in a financial position to purchase it.
They had a positive relationship with their landlord until then, she said. Her understanding was they would be able to continue renting, with a five-year lease extension. They were caught off guard when the building's new owners said they would be using the restaurant space.
“We made the very big decision not to fight it in courts. We just couldn’t afford it," Bravo said.
However, Soscia told NewmarketToday that Made in Mexico had not exercised its right to renew the lease.
“We all have rights. They didn’t exercise theirs, I exercised mine,” he said. “I feel bad for her, but it’s not our problem.”
The building is being purchased by a group of companies, including Metropolis Mercantile + Café, which operates in the lower level of the building. Owner Karla Wilson said it is premature to discuss the plans for the businesses there, but added they were not involved in Made in Mexico's leasing situation.
Bravo said they explored moving Made in Mexico to another location in Newmarket, but nothing was available and they did not want to impact their staff by moving farther away. Instead, they were able to contact the owners of the building next door, who were understanding, she said, and they gave Made in Mexico a new space to rent — though it is a smaller space.
“The hardest part is we’re having to reduce the size of our restaurant because the space is a lot smaller," she said. "It’s still not the best situation, but we’ve made the best of it."
It is a cautionary tale for small business owners, Bravo said. Their lease had been 11 years old and less secure than they thought.
“In the small business world, you don’t have fancy lawyers and things making sure all of these things are in place, and a lot of people go into these types of leases with a lot of good faith and trust,” she said. “For all small businesses, it’s something to really take the time and pay a professional to make sure.”
The restaurant is trying to stay optimistic, Bravo said. After a tough time with COVID-19 measures and lockdowns, she said they at least will be able to keep staff and lean on their takeout service.
“We joke, we’ve gone through the stages of grief, and now we need to look to the future,” she said. “Everybody is just trying to look at the positives at this point. We can’t dwell on what happened, because it’s happened, and there's nothing we can do about it."
Editor's Note: This article has been altered to clarify that a group of businesses are in the process of purchasing the building.