This Great Maple location is set to close in December
Four years after opening at the Westfield UTC center, the contemporary diner will cease operating in late December after notifying the state it will be laying off its 61 employees.
Great Maple, which became enormously popular since it first opened in Hillcrest nearly a decade ago, has decided to close its 4-year-old UTC location due to nearby construction that has dogged the modern diner since its opening.
Located on the edge of Westfield UTC on Genesee, the 5,000-square-foot restaurant is scheduled to serve its last meal Dec. 22. Great Maple’s owners have informed the restaurant’s 61 employees of the impending closure, and if there are any openings at their three other Southern California locations, those jobs will be made available to those workers, said co-owner Amanda Ho.
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“Our focus now is on the safe harbor of our employees and giving our employees a 60-day notice,” Ho said. “We are proud to have hung on as long as we could with the pandemic.”
Before opening the UTC restaurant, the owners had wagered that the Genesee street location would be a more favorable one for the business than being inside the mall. What they hadn’t banked on, though, was the longer-than-expected construction period for the Mid-Coast extension of the San Diego trolley, followed by a more recent construction project across the street where the Costa Verde strip mall is now undergoing a major transformation.
Located at the terminus of the new UC San Diego Blue Line extension, the Costa Verde center was best known for the now-closed Bristol Farms grocery store. Plans for the center’s overhaul, expected to take 30 months to complete, call for up to 400,000 square feet of office and lab space and a 200-room hotel in addition to the site’s already entitled 178,000 square feet of retail space.
“It was sort of a triple threat,” Ho said of the challenges facing Great Maple’s UTC location. “The pandemic was hurtful for everyone, but we also had a lot of construction on Genesee from the very beginning, with the light rail, and then after that ended, there was the decision to blow up the block across from us, so we’re sitting in a construction zone.
“Being right on Genesee, we originally thought that would be to our benefit because of the traffic on Genesee but now we have this beautiful patio, which has a jackhammer and a dump truck as a backdrop.”
Known for its upscale comfort food — and oversized maple bacon doughnuts — Great Maple first opened in Newport Beach in 2011 and two years later in Hillcrest where it took over the former Brian’s American Eatery. It also had a restaurant at the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance but that closed after just two years, in 2017. That same year, Great Maple opened at the Paseo, an outdoor mall in Pasadena.
The decision to shutter the UTC location comes as the Great Maple owners are preparing for their next big venture — a restaurant at Disneyland. Disney revealed the news at its D23 expo in September, announcing that as part of its reimagining of the Paradise Pier Hotel as Pixar Place Hotel, Great Maple will open a flagship restaurant on the first floor and operate other food and beverage locations throughout the property. There is no date yet for the opening of the hotel or restaurant.
With the impending closure of the UTC Great Maple, it’s unclear what will take its place. Ho declined to comment on the current lease, and a representative with Westfield did not return a call seeking comment.
Restaurant broker Mike Spilky agreed that the construction activity on Genesee clearly was a negative for the restaurant business. So too was a lack of easily accessible parking.
“Even though they’re at the parking garage entrance, you have to walk through the garage to get to them,” he said. “Most restaurants want to be on the exterior and it’s to have the parking convenient, but it’s very hard to access them. Anywhere else in UTC, they probably would have thrived. I think a lot of people probably didn’t know they were there.”
U-T reporter Natallie Rocha contributed to this report.
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