Update Nov. 16 2 p.m.Sadie's says closure will not be permanent and plans to reopen.
Sadies American Cafeteria has closed after just six months at Richland Mall on Forest Drive, but it could reopen soon under a new owner.
Weve had to go ahead and make a decision to cut losses, owner David Martin said. Weve had a good business and a good turnout but not quite enough.
Weve been steadily losing money every day, and I had to just go ahead and pull the plug on it.
The restaurant closed Wednesday and did not reopen Thursday, Martin said. Its 50 employees will be paid for the hours they worked within about a week, he said.
Martin said he is negotiating to sell the restaurant to his general manager, Brett Womack, who hopes to re-open it with the same name and employees as soon as a deal can be worked out.
Martin also is winding down his Troncos catering business, which he has operated for 23 years in Columbia and, most recently, was running out of Sadies kitchen. Martin said he is poised to fulfill all of his current contracts but is not accepting new ones.
He plans to exit the hospitality business and work a more normal schedule in the coming months.
Ive had a wonderful run, he said. But, he added, Its time for me to do something else for myself and my family.
Martin opened the cafeteria named after his grandmother, Sadie Tronco to much fanfare in May.
Hundreds gathered in February when Martin announced that he would open the cafeteria and bring back longtime S&S Cafeteria worker Helen Gartman.
She carried your grandmothers tray. She helped you with your childs high chair, and she always refilled your sweet tea, Martin said at the time, as Gartman emerged from the cafeteria, hands waving in the air and a huge grin on her face in a made-for-TV moment.
It was a hopeful time.
Gartman had worked at S&S during its three decades in the mall before it closed in early 2011. Sadies filled the void that S&Ss closing left for longtime loyal customers, who dined there with their families through the generations.
Sadies also served as a boost for the mall, which has struggled to regain tenants since new owners took over more than two years ago, despite being in the heart of the one of the most affluent areas in the state. Earlier plans to redevelop the mall had been stymied by the Great Recession, and new trends in retail that dont favor large enclosed malls.
The mall retains its anchor tenants of Belk and Barnes and Noble. And developers have had some success in recruiting small, local tenants. But major anchor spaces and large stretches of the mall remain vacant.
Martin said the cafeteria boomed for about two weeks after he opened and then business fell off by half on Memorial Day weekend.
It never rebounded, he said.
Martin said he is concerned for his employees, customers and the welfare of the mall.
The people that eat there seven days a week, they love it, and it needs to stay there, he said.
Richland Mall manager Joe Walker said he hopes the restaurant can open again within a matter of days.
The intention is to be closed for as little amount of time as possible, he said. We definitely want them open and are doing all that we can to help get them open.