Alchemy, a dining mainstay in South Park for nearly six years, will be closing its doors next month, a decision driven by declining business and the owners' interest in pursuing new ventures.
Rather than invest considerable sums of money on reinventing the neighborhood eatery in hopes of attracting more diners, co-owner Ron Troyano said he and his partner Matt Thomas decided it was time to sell and move on. The restaurant, located on a prime South Park corner at 30th and Beech streets, will close on Feb. 3.
A new operator plans to take over, but the concept remains under wraps. Kory Stetina of LOVELIKEBEER, who has previously organized vegan beer benefits and pop-up dinners, will be involved in the new operation but did not respond to requests for an interview.
"We were noticing there was a decline in sales because of the market and age of our business, and just the general environment changing because of the amount of new restaurants in San Diego in general," said Troyano, who informed his employees Thursday morning of the planned closure. "There were a lot of us who came out with our restaurants at the same time and they had a similar feel. We recreated the restaurant a number of times, from farm-to-table to street food to a neighborhood feel, and we got to a point where we would have had to sway a lot further and we made a choice not to."
The move comes at a time when competition for diners is stiffening as new, hip neighborhood eateries with big-budget, eye-popping designs are raising the bar in urban enclaves like Little Italy, North Park, Bankers Hill and Mission Hills.
"There's something to be said about having fresh concepts coming to the market because there's been a bunch of sameness, a lot of copycat places out there," said Danny Fitzgerald, a broker turned real estate and restaurant consultant who advised Troyano on Alchemy's next move. "It takes investment and new energy to come in and make another five-year run.
"The marketplace is demanding these indoor-outdoor spaces and these more creative designs and that's what was missing here. Alchemy would have had to raise a half-million dollars to blow the windows out and do the new outdoor-indoor thing. Instead, Alchemy decided to cash in their chips."
Across the street from Alchemy, Buona Forchetta, a pizzeria that opened last year, has capitalized well on its large outdoor patio space and has been jammed with customers from the day it opened. And on the same block as Alchemy, the 8-year-old Hamilton's Tavern is in the midst of a major expansion, with plans to open the long-planned South Park Brewing Co. by the end of February, says owner Scot Blair.
"South Park is a very unique and wonderful community, and I'm trying to keep it that way and also keep it funky," said Blair, who is spending "several hundred thousand dollars" on his new venture.
Troyano, who took on a number of initiatives since opening Alchemy, said he will continue his work overseeing event management at the Silo outdoor space at Makers Quarter in East Village and is also exploring developing a facility that would assist local food entrepreneurs in getting their products into the marketplace. He also hopes to rekindle his Scratch Culinary Education program, which taught elementary students how to cook from scratch and advised school lunch programs on healthy cooking.
His partner, Thomas, previously moved to Northern California where he's now teaching.
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