C’est Cheese Inc., a lunchtime fixture on South Street for three decades, will close on Aug. 25, 2014.
“We’re just hoping someone will come and breathe new life into it,” Patrice Anderson, who has managed the shop for 22 years, said on Monday.
Increasing competition, a crushing winter, tight parking and an economy that has thinned the establishment’s corporate lunchtime crowd have taken their toll, Patrice said, and C’est Cheese has fallen behind on its rent.
Anyone interested in starting a deli can purchase the shop’s equipment and inventory for $30,000, Patrice said. She estimated another $30,000 of investment is needed to update the space “and make it look shiny.” The shop’s retail liquor license is priced at $225,000.
Over the years, C’est Cheese has hired many Moristown High School graduates–”several litters,” Patrice joked–and given a break to others down on their luck. Some staff members were visibly shaken by the news on Monday.
“I’m losing more than a job. I’m losing my family,” said Ashleigh Mallo, fighting back tears.
The 2012 MHS graduate couldn’t even fry an egg when she came aboard. C’est Cheese has taught her so much more, she said.
“Patrice lifted me up, helped me out of a dark spot. You learn so many life lessons working here. Like strength,” Ashleigh said.
Alex Owens, MHS ’05, worked at Jersey Boy Bagels and Kings before joining C’est Cheese five years ago. He’s amassed some pretty good stories in that time–none of which are suitable for publication, he said.
“I’m a ladies man,” he said with a wry grin. “I like to keep everybody happy.”
He said news of the impending closure has not really sunk in yet. Jose Alpirez, a cook at the shop for 13 years, looked stunned.
“I’m not sure,” Jose said when asked what’s next for him.
C’est Cheese replaced a German deli 30 years ago. Owner Jim Patyrak, who once operated additional C’est Cheese shops in Summit and Warren, now lives in Michigan. The Silverman Group owns the property at 64 South St.
Corporate catering accounts for about one-third of the shop’s business, Patrice said. But the economy and an influx of restaurants have taken bites out of lunchtime traffic from downtown workers, she said.
“More people live in town. But a lot of corporations left. Lunch business is more spread out. Local people are still in town for lunch. They just don’t eat here as often.”
Patrice would love to see someone with energy and vision rescue the place, the way Sandrian Camera is being reborn on the same block.
She is ready to help, if asked. Otherwise, the Boston College graduate plans to spend some quality time in her Morris Township garden. Her two children are grown, and eventually she and her husband, Michael Duffy, plan to retire to the Boston area.
Morristown always will hold a special place in her heart, however.
“We really appreciated being here, and everyone’s business,” Patrice said. “It is a great town, and we hope it continues to thrive, and that someone will take advantage of that here, and show the town some love.”