Jewish Times: Suburban House Surprise New Venue
A thick blanket of unplowed snow and ice covered the narrow entranceway and small back parking lot of Suburban House last Monday morning. Since a two-alarm blaze — due to an electrical wiring problem — swept through the popular Pikesville restaurant seven months ago, that lot has remained largely empty, save for the remnants of fire-damaged interior equipment and a trailer serving as a makeshift headquarters for the eatery’s owners, Mark Horowitz and Joe Stowe.
But Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Stowe, who have owned the deli for the past quarter-century, announced this week they will reopen Suburban House in mid-July — but not at its longtime location at 911 Reisterstown Road. Instead, Suburban House will move into the space currently housing the Fuddruckers restaurant at 1700 Reisterstown Road, in Pikesville’s Pomona Square shopping center.
“Parking, parking, parking,” said Mr. Stowe, “we just needed parking. The parking situation here has been unbelievable.”
Besides the paucity of spaces at and around Suburban House, he said he and Mr. Horowitz were tired of the lack of cooperation among their neighboring businesses. “Me and Mark are very upset about the vendors not sharing parking,” he said. “For 25 years, we’ve had to deal with parking issues here.”
Mr. Stowe said he and Mr. Horowitz have only negotiated with Pomona Square LLC, which owns the shopping center, and not with the Austin, Texas-based Fuddruckers Inc. Trout Daniel & Associates, a commercial real estate company, represented Suburban House in securing the space.
“We don’t know why Fuddruckers is leaving,” said Mr. Stowe. “For us, this is a blessing. It’s a dynamite location that is accessible to the Beltway and has plenty of parking, bigger handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and the fact that it’s a restaurant space makes it an easier transition.”
Earlier this week, a Pikesville Fuddruckers manager who would only identify himself as “Chuck” said he and his employees were unaware of any changes there and were not contacted yet by corporate headquarters. He noted that “business is booming.”
Susan Sugar Nathan, a principal of Pomona Square LLP, said the Pikesville Fuddruckers was doing “great business, but this was a national corporate decision.” She said Fuddruckers opted not to renew the lease and will vacate the space in mid-April after 15 years there.
“We’re ecstatic that Suburban House is moving in,” said Ms. Nathan. “It’s a wonderful match. Fuddruckers has been a wonderful tenant, but this is a chance to do something new and different.”
Said Mr. Stowe: “For Suburban House, it’s a win-win. There’s a great tenant mix there, with a lot of doctors’ offices. Who wouldn’t want to get a matzoh ball soup and cup of coffee after an MRI? We’ll take over where their doctors leave off.”
(In a press statement, Suburban House noted that its management has been discussing employment opportunities with non-management employees of Fuddruckers.)
Mr. Stowe said he and his partner heard about the prospective opening of the Fuddruckers space about a month ago. “It just popped up,” he said. “This just came up and answered all of our questions.” Mr. Horowitz called the opening “a Godsend.”
Mr. Stowe said the new location is about the same size — approximately 6,440 square feet — as the restaurant’s old space. “It will be the same size, but not as chopped up,” he said.
Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Stowe said they are not certain what will happen to Suburban House’s home of more than four decades. They said they may decide to open a food service operation at the site, which is currently “a shell.”
“That is still open to us,” Mr. Stowe said, noting that he and his partner have already invested in renovations there.
Mr. Stowe said he was aware of rumors swirling around the community in recent months about Suburban House’s future. “We’ve heard about fire insurance and landlord problems, all untrue,” he said. “The truth is, we’ve had a wonderful relationship with our landlord for 25 years. This was about parking.”
Mr. Stowe said he is confident Suburban House’s ambience and flavor can be transported to a new location.
“Where a matzoh ball goes, it will be Suburban House,” he said. “Suburban House is the people who owned it and worked there and provided courtesy to the customer. It’s the place where you bought a sandwich and got a bag of cookies to thank you for your business. We probably gave out more free coddies than we sold.”
About 90 percent of the restaurant’s 48 employees — some of whom have been with Suburban House for decades — will come to the new location, he said. “Some have gone and gotten other jobs, but most of them have kept in touch and said, ‘When are we coming back, Boss?’” Mr. Stowe said.
Mr. Stowe said the cuisine will remain the same, although the restaurant’s ownership has paid heed to suggestions and observations posted on Suburban House’s Facebook page.
In addition, he said Suburban House is working with an interior designer on the new location.
Most of the visual flourishes of the restaurant — photos of local politicians and celebrities, kitschy artworks, etc. — survived the fire. Mr. Stowe and Mr. Horowitz said they are not yet certain what the new location will look like, but they promised their famous placemats infused with Yiddish vocabulary and humor will return.
“Once we put in the personal touches of Suburban House, it will be the same,” Mr. Stowe said. “Suburban House was always the place you went to kibitz. It should always be a meeting place. We still want that. We missed the people, our customers, so much.”
Added Mr. Horowitz: “The only thing that will really change is the location. It will be fresher. … We realize there’s a lot of great memories [in the former restaurant]. You’ll have remnants of that history and where you came from, and where you’re going.”
He said the renovation of the Fuddruckers will be “a major overhaul. You can’t just tweak it. We’re a Jewish deli. That’s what we do best, and we’ll do it over there.”
While other delis and restaurants have failed at Pomona Square over the past two decades, Mr. Stowe said he is confident Suburban House will succeed there. “We’ll have visibility,” he said. “The others were in the back.”
Suburban House’s owners also hope to attract more young people at their new location. They hope to involve the restaurant in school and communal activities and enterprises.
“We don’t want to be known only as ‘my bubbie’s place,’” said Mr. Horowitz. “We want everyone. We’re a family place.”
Since the fire, Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Stowe said they have been overwhelmed by the calls of support they have received from the community, from Gov. Martin O’Malley, other delis and businesses, and countless patrons.
“We didn’t know we touched so many people. One kid even sent us an e-mail from the Baltic Sea,” said Mr. Stowe.
Mr. Horowitz said he views the restaurant’s new location as “a new page. It’s been a hard time for us and our customers. But we’ll go to the next page, the next location. We don’t know what will be on that next page, but we’re ready for the long-term.”
This article was orginally published in the Jewish Times.
Published on: February 19, 2010.
By Alan H. Feiler, Managing Editor