NIAGARA FALLS – A Niagara Falls restaurant is being thrown out by its landlord and may shut its doors for good.
Mom’s Family Restaurant in the Mil-Pine Plaza has been told by Benchmark Development of Amherst that its lease is being terminated at the end of the year.
Jim Catanese, whose family has owned the restaurant since 1955, said the move “blindsided” him. The 63-year old counts his small business as an exception to what he calls the corporate world of today.
“It’s a shame because the Mom-and-Pops of America are dying,” Catanese said in a rear booth of his restaurant Thursday afternoon.
Catanese said he found out his lease was being terminated by registered mail the day after Thanksgiving.
The business, which fluctuates between 17 and 20 employees, has been on a month-to-month lease with Benchmark since May, and there had been no real talks about the lease, Catanese said. He said he had always had a good relationship with his landlord up until this point. “I just figured eventually they were going to get here, because I’ve been here 40 years,” he said.
Catanese put up a message to customers in his restaurant Wednesday, and then the news spread quickly on Facebook. He said the support he’s received from customers has been heartwarming. “I’ve been fortunate,” he said.
Catanese said he was told his restaurant’s space was needed in order to amass 15,000 square feet with neighboring vacant space in the plaza for “an unspecified national chain.” A call to Benchmark was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.
Catanese, who worked at the restaurant in high school and college, and became a partner in the business 40 years ago, described himself as still being “in shock” at what’s transpired. He said he’s not ruling out trying to find another location for the restaurant but noted that his wife, Pat, wants him to retire from the 75- to 80-hour weeks. “Catanese said he’s asked Benchmark officials if he’d be able to have another two weeks before he has to leave, and he’s waiting to hear back from them.