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Restaurant expansion could continue in Longmeadow

Date: 7/17/2012

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW — The influx of food service businesses in Longmeadow may continue in the near future if Kapil Taneja has his way.

Taneja went before the Planning Board at its July 11 meeting to discuss what would be necessary for him to open a new Subway fast food restaurant in unit M of the plaza located at 819 Williams Street.

"I'm new to the town and I thought I understood the procedure, but I just wanted to talk to you in order to better understand exactly what steps I should be taking," he said.

Taneja explained that the restaurant would fill a vacant part of the building that formerly housed The Mutual Fund Store. Colebrook Realty Vice Presidents Mitch Bolotin and Kevin Morin said the plan would not cause a problem in terms of necessary parking spaces and Taneja concurred, stating that most of the parked cars at the premises would not be there long.

"We are expecting to have about 30 seats, but 70 percent of our business is takeout," Taneja said.

The board expressed concerns with the traffic issues that may be caused by other restaurants with a large takeout business — the Hu Ke Lau and La Cucina Express also operate in the plaza — in addition to the post office.

Bolotin said he believed the Subway would be a complimentary piece, offering more of a lunchtime option.

"The Hu Ke Lau doesn't do a strong lunchtime take out business," he said.

Taneja, from the Hartford, Conn., area, has a strong background in the food service industry as a Subway franchisee for approximately 18 years, operating 25 restaurants, including one close by in Suffield, Conn. In 2006, he was featured in IndUS Business Journal, a periodical focusing on South Asian and Asian-Indian business community in North America, for his success.

Planning Board Chair Walter Gunn advised Taneja to talk with the Zoning Board of Appeals in order to get approval for the parking plan and then return to the Planning Board.

Subway would join Max Burger, Zen-Asian Bistro and Peachwave as businesses that recently came before the board looking for approval.

Gunn acknowledged the recent trend of new restaurants entering Longmeadow when questioned about it by Reminder Publications.

"We've had three facilities converted from business use to restaurants recently," he said, admitting he did not have a strong sense as to what started the practice.

Gunn suggested a combination of changing town demographics, the weak economy keeping Longmeadow residents closer to home and low start-up costs for a restaurant as opposed to other businesses as possible reasons for so many popping up.

He also pointed out that the new tenants were all part of established businesses.

"Most of them are extensions," Gunn said. "One is an Asian restaurant out of Hadley, Max [Burger] is an extension, Subway would be an extension."

Gunn said one thing he was sure of was the fact that he is not entirely comfortable with the number of restaurants that have come into town seeking liquor licenses.

"One thing I'm not crazy about, for the record, is the explosion of bar establishments," he said. "Every single one of these places wants to have a liquor license and they are getting them. What you're seeing is the family restaurant element disappearing."