June 18, 2013

Five Star Day Cafe Has Closed


Photo via Athens Food Tours

Word was spreading around Athens yesterday that Five Star Day Cafe, longtime peddler of biscuits and meatloaf downtown and at times elsewhere, was no more, but confirmation came today from onetime owner and franchise manager Diana Fairbairn.

An Eastside location closed a few years ago, and a potential outpost on Milledge never materialized. Fairbairn posted a gracious statement on the restaurant's website thanking its many patrons and employees over the past 15 years and expanded further to Flagpole in an email:

I started Five Star in January 1998, but sold the downtown store to the current owner, Mike Caplinger in July 2007. At the time, I had already licensed another franchise to the eastside, as you will remember the Barnett Shoals store. When my business partner at the time moved away, we sold our restaurants, Speakeasy and Five Star downtown. I retained ownership of the concept in the form of the Franchise company, and continued to help run the 5star through leadership in menus, training, advertising, catering, etc. Mike and I had been friends for over 20 years, so it was a good close relationship that we hoped to further. We looked at several spots through the years to expand the 5 star (you will remember us trying to rezone on milledge), but it just never lined up for us, for various reasons. 

Unfortunately, the economy changed in November 2008, and it has been hard to recover. Although our sales had recovered to pre 2008 numbers again, the cost of doing business had exceeded those sales, making it difficult for us to maintain a positive balance. We reached the end of our lease this month, and had negotiated a year extension, hoping to maybe add on a beer/wine license again, and expand our dinner to include waiter service, in order to add to our bottom line.  But the landlord wanted a large sum of money devoted to renovations to the building, and that, coupled with the small size of our building, and the large amount of competition downtown, forced us to make a choice. We just couldn't find a way to reinvest a large sum of money into the space in order to break even every month. 

I am very proud of my little restaurant, and will miss it terribly. I feel our community supported and loved us, and I hope we leave on a positive note, never having let our standards for quality of food and service suffer.  

It is not a failure, but rather I have to look at it as a natural progression. We created a place that resonated within our community, and spawned several other now iconic places that could not have found traction if not for our pioneering. 

I hope to continue the Five Star legacy one day, and grow it to new heights of success that will better be able to accommodate families, students, and foodies of all kinds.