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Big Fish Grille closes its doors in Geneva Commons

Published: Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 6:52 p.m. CDT

GENEVA – A full-service restaurant in business for about 14 months in Geneva Commons closed this week after owners said they did everything they could to stay afloat.

John Mathias, who operated Big Fish Grille with Vince Mazzaferro, worked to dismantle the restaurant Friday, two days after its last day in business.

“It’s always hard to close a restaurant,” Mathias said, sitting along the bar with empty tables and chairs around him. “I put everything I had into it. I’m losing everything.”

The restaurant was losing money, but Mathias said he’s tired of people blaming the economy for such situations. “Tons of reasons” contributed to the decision to close, he said. Big Fish Grille had an inconvenient parking situation; it chose to offer a more limited menu than some customers wanted, and it never developed a lunch or late-night business, Mathias said, noting quick-service eateries seem to do better in the shopping center. The “extreme amount of coupon culture” also didn’t help, he said.

“Nobody’s dining at full price any more,” Mathias said.

At its busiest, Big Fish Grille employed about 40 people and ended with about 30, he said. None of the employees knew before Wednesday that it would be their last day, and some are still learning of the closure because Mathias prefers to share that information in person, he said.

Mathias purposely closed the restaurant early in the holiday season so that customers wouldn’t waste money buying gift cards – a big seller last year – as presents, he said.

Signs on the front doors notify customers of the closure and thank customers for their support. They also encourage diners and shoppers to stay away from national chains.

“Continue supporting small business in America,” the signs read.

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