By Richard Gaines
---- — Five Guys, the nostalgia-inducing, burgers-and-fries franchise eatery at Gloucester Crossing is no more.
Monday dawned with brown paper over the windows and two men hauling red tables and chairs inside. They declined to comment.
Tbe Board of Health, which maintains health standards and record for restaurants in the city, identified the licensee as Gregory F. Vasey of Boston, who has interests in numerous restaurants, primarily in Boston. Efforts to reach Vasey Monday were unsuccessful.
Sam Park, developer of the shopping center, said the business was allowed out of his five-year lease at the end of September, which fell on Sunday and marked the end of the third year.
“We made rent concessions, but the economic slowdown was more protracted than anyone expected,” said Park.
Rob Bradley of Cape Ann Liquors, which has shared the stand-alone building in the center of the plaza with Five Guys Burgers and Fries, said only he had heard that the rent was too high.
The closing comes as Five Guys, which is a privately owned franchising company based in the Washington, D.C. area, is expanding both nationally and in Essex County, with a new outlet open on Route 114 in Peabody. The Five Guys website reports more than 1,000 locations in 47 states and Canada, and there will be 31 Five Guys restaurants in Massachusetts when two in Boston and one in Braintree open upon completion of construction.
The loss of Five Guys looms as the first major failure in Gloucester Crossing, which opened with the debut of Marshall’s department store in September 2009 amid a mix of major civic excitement and hope for new economic vitality — and anxiety among some that the shopping center would absorb business from the existing shops, especially downtown, and destroy the tenuous retail trade or worse, the authenticity of Gloucester’s culture.
The city’s largest shopping center — derided as a “mall” by detractors — fully opened in October 2009, anchored then as it is today by DeMoulas’ Market Basket. The project took shape in the middle of the past decade during the real estate boom, but became a physical reality after the crash.
Park persevered, with investment help by DeMoulas interests, and opened with Marshall’s, later adding a new Gloucester outlet for Rockport-based Smith’s Ace Hardware, the national Olympia Sports, more recently a Petco outlet, and a number of smaller shops.
However, the project has yet to deliver the hotel or assisted living facility that Park had agreed to include to meet the wish lists of then Mayor John Bell and the City Council.
The project superseded a 240 unit, Chapter 40B housing project that had engendered deep bitterness within the community after the state overruled the Zoning Appeals Board which had found the project a danger to the then fully operational Fuller School because the main access road for the apartments was designed to run close to the school. Five Guys or “Five Guys Burger and Fries” for those in an expansive frame of mind, has proved a remarkable success story in creating a new niche in the fast food field. The first Five Guys was opened as a “burger joint” in Arlington, Va., by the sons of Jerry and Janie Murrell, 1986. The chain expanded to five restaurants, specializing in handmade cooked fresh burgers and fries and lots of fixings, but a limited menu.
The same formula obtained through 2003 when the Murrell’s began franchising. In 18 months, there were 300 Five Guys, and today there are over 1,000 with 1,500 units “in development,” according to the company Website.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.