Central Point's Torero's Cantina is one of several downtown restaurants that have closed over the summer. - Bob Pennell

Going Out of Business

CENTRAL POINT — With one side of an entire city block nearly vacant during Tuesday's lunch hour, including a dozen open parking spaces and two empty restaurants, downtown sounded more like a lazy Sunday afternoon than a weekday in September.

Two large restaurants, The Brick and Torero's, closed in recent weeks, leaving a hole in downtown lunch offerings. Another restaurant, The Pioneer Club Café, drastically reduced its hours because of slow business.

City officials this year have made efforts to help downtown merchants attract more business — even sponsoring a trip to an out-of-state "boot camp" for business owners and local seminars — but restaurants seem to be facing a tougher road than retail shops.

Shady Cove resident Dan Bogdanoff walked up to the historic building on Pine Street that, until recent weeks, housed The Brick, and was surprised to find it locked.

"Oh man. I had no idea!" he said, learning of its closure.

Bogdanoff, who said his favorite pizza place in Shady Cove recently stopped opening for lunch, said he visited The Brick whenever he was in town.

City officials said the restaurant's longtime owner, Clark Mears, passed away in 2009, likely contributing to its eventual closure. Bogdanoff said The Brick was "a really neat place."

"Just every once in a blue moon I come in," he said. "Today I had an appointment and I was waiting for somebody so I figured I would kill a little time. I guess people don't go out to eat or go out drinking as much anymore."

Michelle Ye, owner of nearby Ma's Restaurant, which opened some 15 years ago, said running a restaurant in the small downtown has always been tricky, but recent years have been especially tough.

"Every September, when kids go back to school, we always do see an increase in business," she said. "This year, with three restaurants in town closed, we didn't see any increase in traffic at all. We actually have seen a decrease. Lunch business has been about half what it was."

Ye said the slow economy as well as the closing of a handful of medical offices and a recovery center in recent years have affected lunch traffic.

Shirley Knight, of the M&M Agency near the now-vacant Torero's, was saddened to see two each other closed.

"It's quite a change and it's a little scary, because it seems like things really aren't going to come back too fast," Knight said, noting that the M&M real estate agency has been downtown since 1954. "The downtown has changed a lot over the years and has always seemed like it was up and down, but this recently was just a big surprise to everyone, especially The Brick because they had such a good evening program and always cars parked all around there."

Public Works Director Matt Samitore said the downtown, being small, had special challenges, but a number of niche businesses — such as a scrapbook store, archery shop and various salons — seem to be thriving.

Restaurants, on the other hand, have come and gone over the years.

A positive for the downtown, the city's assortment of Asian restaurants seems to be thriving, or at least holding on, Samitore noted.

Aside from Ma's, the lineup includes Zen Zen Sushi and Teriyaki and a newly opened Thai Garden.

Still, Samitore said the loss of any restaurants affects other businesses.

"The closure of those restaurants has certainly left a hole in the business community downtown," he said.

"It's really unfortunate for the downtown but also for Central Point restaurants. Those were restaurants that were in place for a few years and seemed to be popular."

Off the Wall Music owner Dan Doshier said the economy is hard, but especially for any businesses relying simply on downtown traffic to survive.

Doshier said businesses like his and the florist and pawn shop advertise online and seem to be holding their own.

"Central Point has always been a sleepy little town," he said. "I do a lot of business online and I think some others do, too. That's really the way to stay afloat. The locals don't really seem to have a lot of money these days. I don't have people coming in buying five and six hundred dollar guitars right now "… the economy sucks."

Central Point resident Carla Brown, who spent her afternoon running errands at a nearby bank and hair salon downtown, said she was sad to see Torero's closed.

"I loved their lunch menu, they always had good deals and the people were some of the nicest you could run into," Brown said. "I work in Medford but would meet people here for lunch. It is sad to see them gone but it seems like it's hard to make a restaurant go anymore. It just seemed like they were doing OK."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at

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