The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Cafe Polonia co-owner Darek Barcikowski:
Despite changes, restaurant industry in Salem continues to prosper
Tuesday, February 12th, will be the last day Café Polonia in downtown Salem will be open business. Soon after that, it will be taken over by new owners who, after minor renovations, will reopen the location under a new name. While the new restaurant will feature some of Polonia’s menu items, the new concept will be significantly different.
Café Polonia is one of a number of restaurants in our community which have recently closed or changed hands. While this trend may suggest that the number of dining establishments in Salem is not sustainable, I believe that not to be the case.
Whether it is Salem or any other city, only a small number of restaurants enjoy the same longevity as other businesses. It could be said that frequent change is almost an inherent characteristic of the industry. Café Polonia has enjoyed a tremendous following which turned our restaurant into a success. For us, the difficult decision to sell was a result of a change in personal family plans.
Among some of the restaurants in Salem which recently closed or changed ownership, including the Grape Vine, Seaport Café, Strega, Bangkok Paradise, Upper Crust, Green Land and Coven, I believe none did so because their businesses was not sustainable. Oftentimes, these locations were quickly pursued by new owners who have or are in the process of turning them into successful enterprises. Café Polonia alone entertained half a dozen potential buyers who are scouting Salem for possible locations. There are probably many more.
The restaurant business is not easy. Many first time owners do not realize the amount of work, stress and attention to detail involved. Running a restaurant becomes your life and one needs to have a deep passion for it to do it well. While more and more people dine outside their homes, the industry is competitive and trends are changing quickly. Today’s diners look for a different experience: they prefer smaller, share-size portions, better values, healthier options, locally grown ingredients, and unmatched customer service. Owners need to make sure each customer leaves the establishment satisfied or they run the risk of negative feedback on rating sites which can hurt business and turn potential customers away.
But even with all these changes within the industry, more people dine at restaurants today than ever before. And as long as for each closing place there is a new one opening, the market is as sound as ever. That is certainly the case in Salem which continues to be the dining destination of the North Shore and offers unparalleled variety of choices in the area. The expansion of the Peabody Essex Museum and the development of Salem’s harbor will assure the continuation of this trend and growth.
The Barcikowski family would like to express sincere gratitude to all our patrons, employees, friends and the community as a whole for the tremendous support we have received since we opened our doors in October of 2010. We will sincerely miss the opportunity to welcome you to our restaurant.
We wish the new owners much success and are confident that our patrons will find a little part of what was Café Polonia within the new establishment.
Darek Barcikowski, Co-owner, Café Polonia