The Sunday night shutdown of Five Guys Burger and Fries capped rumors that had been simmering last week, and appears to have been driven, as Gloucester Crossing developer Sam Park noted, by the lack of an agreement on a new lease.
But the closure of the Crossing project’s only restaurant — albeit it, a fast-food one focused squarely on burgers, fries and hot dogs — also had to be rooted in the fact that Five Guys could not turn the needed volume to make ends meet over a longer haul, even from a seemingly ideal location at the center of the city’s first large-scale shopping plaza. And that raises another issue.
In the run-up to Gloucester Crossing’s September 2009 opening, there was widespread fear and speculation that the plaza would bring about a sort of doomsday for the city’s downtown, and concern about unwelcome competition surfaced again as the Crossing openings of Olympia Sports and then national giant Petco would pose significant challenges to downtown’s Palazola’s Sporting Goods and independent local pet and pet supply stores.
Yet there are few indications that’s been the case, as much of Gloucester’s loyal customer base has stood by an historic downtown that is in the midst of a resurgence, bolstered by events like block parties and coordinated visits by cruise ships such as the 2,000-passenger Eurodam, which was in town Tuesday and is due back over the weekend.
Five Guys may not have directly competed with other Gloucester eateries. And its closure means a new loss of city jobs, the clear majority of them part-time.
Yet Five Guys’ shutdown also suggests that shoppers who might have stopped in to get a bite to eat have not flocked to the Crossing and abandoned other local businesses. And that, at least, is food for thought.