Au Revoir, Au Bon Pain; Bonjour, Belgian Waffles

Paul Bass Photo Twenty-five people got booted from their jobs on Memorial Day with only four days’ notice, as Au Bon Pain served its last muffin at the crossroads of Broadway and York and Elm streets.

The busy chain outlet restaurant—popularly referred to as “ABP”—closed for good at 2 p.m. Monday.

Workers said they were “pissed” that they had learned of the closing and their layoffs only on Thursday.

“I’m pretty pissed. They gave us only three days to find another job,” said staffer Joshua Fowler (pictured), who said he doesn’t yet have another job.

“We have a lot of angry customers,” said Rich Gattison, a 32-year-old New Havener. “I’ve been in this store for over eight years. I started out making sandwiches. They made me a manager.”

Gattison said he may be able to find work with Bruegger’s Bagels or Buffalo Wild Wings. “I’ve got a couple of offers,” he said. “I’ve got to take some time. I know this happens in the business; it’s different when it happens to you. If i was to leave I would have to give more than weeks notice.”

Yale wanted to clear the space to improve the building, and it has a similar kind of restaurant opening across Elm Street, said university spokeswoman Elizabeth Stauderman.

She issued the following statement from Yale:

“Yale chose to not renew the lease so that necessary upgrades could be made to the space in which Au Bon Pain is currently located. University Properties is also working on a new, similarly priced and locally-owned cafe restaurant, called Maison Mathis, which is currently under construction across the street at 304 Elm. Maison Mathis should open within 60 days and will feature sandwiches, Belgian waffles, chocolates, and other food. So, current ABP customers from Yale and New Haven will have a similar dining option in the area.”

The owners of the new joint also own Rudy’s. The owners, Omer Ipek and Skel Islamaj, invited Au Bon Pain employees to apply to them for work. They issued this statement through Yale:

“As local business owners of Rudy’s on Chapel Street and the soon to open Maison Mathis Belgian Bakery Cafe on Elm Street, we always seek to support the community by giving New Haven residents first consideration for employment in our establishments. Our success is dependent upon a strong local economy and we invite all the employees currently working with the Au Bon Pain on Broadway to contact us to apply to be considered for a team member position at either of our establishments. We are very excited about our new venture, Maison Mathis, and look forward to hiring local as part of of our commitment to New Haven.”

A senior manager at Au Bon Pain said the company would not allow any formal comment. Spokespeople for Au Bon Pain did not respond to a request for comment; a spokeswoman for the parent company, Compass Group, referred questions to the Au Bon Pain division.

Meanwhile, Sullivan’s On Chapel—the revived former Kavanagh’s Irish-American-themed dining and drinking establishment on Chapel Street between York and Park—plans to close in two weeks.

“Yes it is true. Sullivan’s On Chapel is closing on Saturday, June 8. Dean is retiring!!!!!!” reports the restaurant’s Facebook page. (More here.)

The message referred to Dean Digioia, who has managed the restaurant for 10 years.

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posted by: Curious on May 27, 2013  4:20pm

http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2013/05/27/news/doc51a3a84bd24dc187620311.txt?viewmode=fullstory

From The Register…
“Au Bon Pain opened at the 1 Broadway location on Aug. 5, 1994. It replaced a nightclub called Demery’s. It was around that time that Yale and the state of Connecticut were spending $7.5 million to renovate the Broadway area.”

I wonder how much of this might have to do with the sale of those nearby streets to Yale?  Now that they have more concrete control, you might see the university making some bolder moves.

posted by: OneCityManyDreams on May 27, 2013  6:26pm

Goodbye friend. I saw your sadness today. It was oozing from your sigh. THE sigh of goodbye. Your coffee urns were forever cold. And the sun didn’t dance today on your chairs. Some people, well they just didn’t know it was your last day. But, I did. And I will miss you.  The journey now will be for the jobless you left behind. May they find work again and may they find it soon. It is very scarce here in New Haven. XO

posted by: TheMadcap on May 27, 2013  6:29pm

So what is Yale’s plan this time around, keep a prime peace of real estate empty for 12 years until the customer they think is absolutely perfect comes along?(a la Shake Shack)

posted by: anonymous on May 27, 2013  6:55pm

Sounds awful that the layoffs were so swift, but it’s great that Au Bon Pain is essentially being “replaced” by a locally-owned business, if that is actually true. 

Is it?  Maison Mathis is a brand that owned by a large corporation in Belgium.  Is this a franchise or is it actually 100% locally owned?

posted by: momnprof on May 27, 2013  7:12pm

Can’t say that I will miss the place.  ABP was thoroughly mediocre, but I do feel for the workers there.  There had to be a better way to do that.

posted by: Stylo on May 27, 2013  9:21pm

I can’t say Au Bon Pain will be missed by me. The few times I ate there I found it merely passable food, and not very clean. Maybe they will move to another location in the city. Did they do well there?

posted by: Stylo on May 27, 2013  9:25pm

In fact, ABP would probably be better off opening in one of the empty storefronts on Chapel by the green. They’d join other QSR’s: Chipotle, Shake Shack, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, etc.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 27, 2013  10:40pm

You all should have form a union.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 27, 2013  11:14pm

Curious,

I don’t know that it is fair to conflate this landlord/tenant story with Yale Land Grabbing.

But since you mention it, we all know that the street purchase is but harbinger.  Look for a future cash give-away of the Broadway Triangle.  Yale already has a 99 year lease on the parking lot there, which they got for, you guessed it, 3 million dollars (to plug a budget gap).

The Game of GO continues—surround and conquer.

posted by: Katharine Weber on May 28, 2013  7:24am

And before Demery’s it was a Rexall Drugstore, supplying generations of Yalies with birth control and other sundries.

I vote for a big Yankee Doodle reincarnation on that corner. (I know, I know, it’s not a democracy and I don’t have a vote.)  Still miss the Doodle!

posted by: Curious on May 28, 2013  7:58am

Fair enough Bill.  I think this article was expanded after my comment.  At the time I read it, I do not think they had any statements from Yale at all.  I wish they would post when a story has been updated.  I may have read it wrong, but I don’t think I would miss all that information.

Also, I remember reading in another article that Yale planned on putting up some kind of “Welcome to the Broadway Shopping Area” arch or banner or gate or something.  This seems to be in line with that.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 28, 2013  9:42am

Where is the outrage at the short notice given to the workers who depend on their jobs to pay their bills?
Do these corporations not have any conscience?
Do they feel NO responsibility to help their workers transition to other paid employment?
As I watch the trend towards chain stores in New Haven, I wonder if anyone involved with them feels any real responsibility to the people that work here?
Change should involve more sensitivity and responsibility to the people affected.
I prefer locally owned businesses because there is a real connection to the community and their money stays here.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 28, 2013  11:58am

Maybe Yale’s decision to not renew the lease has something to do with the new Panera Bakery opening on Chapel. 

Sometimes Yale adds direct competition to it’s feudal land system, sometimes they eliminate that competition with the lack of a pen stroke.

posted by: GoodNatured on May 28, 2013  1:28pm

ABP acted deplorably in not informing its workers earlier—surely they knew weeks ago that they were planning to close.

As for ABP itself - I will not miss it.  Too much overpriced junk food poorly disguised under a “French” name.  We got tired of that place 10 years ago.

So—Good news, as far as I can see.  A new, locally-owned bakery will open—hopefully with better food! but how could it be worse?—And we will see that corner revitalized.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 28, 2013  4:50pm

I am looking forward to the waffles.

posted by: Kevin on May 28, 2013  4:50pm

Anonymous, according to its website http://www.maison-mathis.com/, Maison Mathis is a Belgian firm that operates on a franchise basis. The franchisees will be local, but I don’t know whether I would call it locally-owned.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 28, 2013  6:32pm

But this is the true Litmus Test of community commitment:

Will Annette, the Flower Lady, continue to be allowed to peddle on that corner?

If that strip turns up Blue,  we know the solution is base…

posted by: anonymous on May 28, 2013  9:08pm

I heard a rumor that Origins is closing too? Perhaps Yale Properties is planning to demolish this corner building and construct a small tower. That would be the ideal outcome - this city desperately needs more dense, mixed-use commercial development if it wants to stop raising property taxes each year.

Hopefully the big new developments that are proposed for Chapel & Howe, College & Crown, George & Orange,  Elm & Church, and State & Lawrence will move forward ASAP and without more interference from the Board of Aldermen.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 28, 2013  10:50pm

Anonymous,

Origins is supposed to be moving up the block into the Laila Rowe space, so a little crow just told me.

Something is in the works…..

posted by: Curious on May 29, 2013  9:12am

Laila Rowe is out?

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 29, 2013  12:43pm

Curious,

All scuttlebutt is subject to change without notice.