SOUTHINGTON — Zingarella owner Mark Zommer plans to have a new tenant for the location before the restaurant’s closure next month. Zommer, who announced the decision to close over Facebook last week, is currently in discussions with potential owners to take over the space to quickly open it again — not wanting to leave the prominent Plantsville property vacant for long.
As a partial owner of the building, along with Rick Rice, he wants to leave the community with a business he feels is worthy of taking over the space and will meaningfully contribute to the community in their absence.
Zommer said he’s currently in talks with several prospective owners but isn’t ready to announce anything publicly for the next few weeks.
“We want to keep it a restaurant,” he said, speaking of the difficulty of choosing what would follow Zingarella, “Especially if I’m part owner of the building, you want the business to be successful. So, my partner and I, we're kind of choosy about who we let in there because, of course, we want the least amount of risk. We don't want to let somebody in there and then they fail in a year. So we have some interviews set up and hopefully, we'll work out something that ends up being a positive.”
How successful a successor restaurant would be remains uncertain, as other owners in the Plantsville area express their own difficulties in being able to maintain their business with ongoing supply chain issues — which Zommer said was one of the largest factors in having to close his restaurant, along with staffing challenges and other concerns.
“The biggest issue is staffing,” according to Michael Miller, the owner of Hop Haus, which sits right across the street just north of Zingarella. “And the second big issue is the increase in utilities and food prices. It's getting harder to maintain a quality product for the customer at a reasonable price.”
Miller added that they’ve been able to maintain the business by he and his management staff working extremely long hours, but even that does little to offset the increased prices for food and other items needed for day-to-day operations.
In spite of the plans for another business to take over the neighboring Zingarella, Miller worried about what the loss of such a long-standing restaurant might mean for the downtown Plantsville area.
“It's not a great thing. Plantsville is a great area and a great community. It's definitely better having a bunch of good restaurants in one spot. So it's definitely going to make an important impact on the business in Plantsville,” he said.
Another factor contributing to the downturn in the restaurant industry is inflation, which has caused a rise in utilities and other essentials for people across the country.
Mike DelSanto, member of the Southington Town Council and chair of the Economic Strike Committee, said while corporate chains will likely have the capital needed to weather the leaner period, it will be locally owned businesses like Zingarella and Hop Haus that’ suffer the most difficulties.
“I think, unfortunately, this is going to be the wave,” DelSanto said, “I’m not surprised that folks running restaurants are taking a hit. Because the first thing that my family gave up was going out to dinner. When we’ve got to pay extra for the day-to-day necessities to run your household the first luxury that goes out the window is eating out now, and I feel really horrible. I don't envy anyone that's in the restaurant industry right now. Tough times are upon us, and I don’t think they’re going to get better anytime soon.”
He added that Southington officials would help business owners however they could, but noted that it will be difficult given the current state of the economy. Budgets across all committees are especially tight, with those like the school board seeing 7% increases in spite of cutbacks, leaving the town with little excess capital to provide additional support.
DelSanto encouraged business owners to call Louis Perillo at the Economic Development Office if they have any questions or need advice, though still noting that many businesses are likely to struggle for the foreseeable future — and that Zingarella could be one casualty of many in the coming year.
“I don't envy restaurant owners at this time. I wish them nothing but the best … Corporations I think are going to be okay. The corporate businesses, although they're struggling as well, and the mom-and-pop businesses are going to suffer the worst because a lot of them don't have that liquid backup for times like this.”
“I'm very disappointed that Zingarella is closing,” DelSanto added. “I dine there. They've been successful for over 10 years. That's a milestone for a restaurant these days, and I wish them the best of luck in any future endeavors that they may have. And I’d be very happy to see if another restaurant can kind of take its place,”