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Ichiban to take over Friendly's property in Longmeadow Shops

Date: 5/7/2012

May 7, 2012

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW — Grove Properties Trust LLC, the group that owns and operates the Longmeadow Shops, has found a new tenant for the former Friendly's location.

Steve Walker, regional property manager for Grove Properties, told the Planning Board that an upscale Asian restaurant has signed a lease to take over the space.

"We have a lease signed with an Asian bistro," Walker said, later elaborating that the restaurant would be a new Ichiban location. "They have a store in South Hadley that has a really good reputation that's doing some really good business."

The Longmeadow Friendly's location was shut down on Jan. 9 as part of further restructuring by the company as it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A total of 37 stores nation-wide were closed in addition to the 63 "underperforming" locations shuttered when the chain submitted its papers in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware on Oct. 5, 2011.

Walker said that he felt the new addition would compliment the existing businesses well and addressed the concerns of the board about having another Asian restaurant across the street from the Hu Ke Lau.

"[The Hu Ke Lau serves] Polynesian food and Chinese food," Walker said. [Ichiban's food] is not fried food. It will not be like General Tso's chicken and things of that nature."

Walker added that approximately 60 percent of Ichiban's business at its South Hadley location is sushi.

Walker went on to say that the lease is contingent upon the restaurant obtaining a liquor license, which they are currently in the process of applying for, but he did not foresee any problems in them obtaining it.

The hope, Walker said, was to attract more business from young adults to the Longmeadow Shops

"The 20 to 30 year-olds love this stuff," he said. "I think why they like it is you can put together a group of six, get a bunch of different rolls and they each can thrown in $20."

Planning Board Chair Walter Gunn expressed some level of disappointment that a family-friendly or child-friendly restaurant was not moving in.

"Where can the kids hang out?" he asked.

Walker explained that none of the businesses that reached out to him were similar to Friendly's.

"The type of restaurants like Friendly's, those family-type restaurants, they don't exist anymore," he said. "I showed it to 12 different restaurants and every single restaurant that looked at it wanted a liquor license."

The Planning Board approved a waiver of sight and design review of changes to the exterior of the building.

"We don't want it to look like a closed Friendly's," Walker said.

Walker also told the Planning Board that MaxBurger is set to open on July 1 with a tent event.

"What they'd like to do is a fund-raiser before they open. They put a tent up in the parking lot and they sell tickets and raise a lot of money," Walker said, explaining that the Max Group chooses a charity based on the interests of the area, suggesting the Shriners Hospital in Springfield as an option.

Gunn expressed excitement in the opening of the restaurant and the fund-raiser.

"Max Group is a very energetic group," he said.

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