GREENFIELD — The chairs and tables have been pushed against the walls. Signs advertising open positions have been wiped from the windows.
A menu board sits near the front door, tipped to its side. The message upon it, written in chalk and all caps, is clear: CLOSED FOREVER.
SoupHerb — a popular eatery in downtown Greenfield saved from closure last year by a group of community members — has vacated its storefront at 16 N. State St., evicted weeks after a lawsuit alleged rent had gone unpaid for months.
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Business owner Mark Lozier said he turned the keys to the building over to the landlord Monday during an eviction hearing.
The lunchtime destination, which also served as a part-time performance venue and art gallery, will not reopen, he said. He declined to comment further.
In April, property management company Twenty Main LLC asked a judge to evict the business, saying the restaurant owes nearly $8,000 in rent, court documents state. The company said SoupHerb has failed to pay its $1,750 monthly rent since January, even after the landlord’s attempts to establish a repayment plan, court documents state.
It’s the first of two lawsuits SoupHerb has faced in recent weeks. The second was filed by one of the diner’s vendors, which alleged the restaurant wrote an $800 check that bounced, according to court documents.
The amount remains unpaid, and the case is pending, court records state.
SoupHerb first opened in 2010 at the busy intersection of State and Main streets in the Creative Arts and Events Center, 2 W. Main St. Its founder and head chef, Suzanne Kosovich, created a menu of soups, salads and sandwiches reminiscent of meals she’d made at Carnegie’s in Greenfield, the gourmet restaurant where she worked as a chef before deciding to open her own business.
Kosovich ran the café for six years before announcing plans to retire. The eatery closed briefly last spring, but a group of six local investors rallied together to purchase the business, vowing to keep it open and build Greenfield’s downtown district. The café moved to another open storefront just around the corner and touted the same menu and recipes diners had come to know and love.
Lozier, a Greenfield insurance agent, took the lead, running the business after the purchase. After the lawsuits were filed, he maintained the restaurant was operating successfully. He denied claims made in both suits and said he had no plans to close the restaurant.
Owners of businesses that line Main Street downtown say they’re sad to see a local option go.
Cindy Hargrove, who runs J.W. Riley’s Emporium and Antiques, which sits around the corner from SoupHerb, said she was disappointed to hear a downtown storefront would now be empty.
Local businesses supported one other, she said.
When customers, after browsing her shop, asked for dining recommendations, Hargrove always offered SoupHerb as a option, promising the menu was a local favorite.
Relationships like those help a business district thrive, she said. When storefronts are empty, pieces to the puzzle are missing, and everyone who operates a business in the area feels the impact.
SoupHerb employees — some of whom worked for Kosovich for years and continued in their positions once Lozier took the helm — said the eatery’s financial problems had been apparent for months.
Raena Sweeney worked for Kosovich for several years and wanted to continue her boss’s legacy, so she took a job when the business changed hands.
Things started off smoothly, Sweeney said. Customers were thankful to see the place was saved, and the two-room dining area frequently drew large crowds during lunch hours.
But soon, letters began to appear at the restaurant’s doorstep from vendors stating they hadn’t received payments, she said. Sweeney said she grew increasingly concerned the first time her paycheck bounced.
Sweeney said she went without pay for about seven weeks, hoping business would rebound. She then resigned and started looking for a new job, worried about the restaurant’s future, she said.
Seeing the place closed, its windows dark and the bustling little kitchen empty, is disappointing, Sweeney said.
Kosovich and her longtime employee put a lot of work to make SoupHerb a community staple, she said.
The employees saw the place as home, their co-workers as family.
“It’s disconcerting. It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “I put blood, sweat and tears into this place (with the Kosovich family) … It meant something to me.”
2010: Chef Suzanne Kosovich opens SoupHerb in the Creative Arts and Events Center, 2 W. Main St.
April 2016: Kosovich announces her retirement and the closure of the popular lunch destination.
July 2016: Six local investors band together to purchase the restaurant and keep it from closing. The restaurant moves around the corner to the former site of the Hey Cafe, 16 N. State St.
April 2017: Property manager Twenty Main LLC sues SoupHerb owners for nearly $8,000 in rent the landlord said went unpaid since January.
A second lawsuit is filed by a SoupHerb vendor, who said the restaurant’s owners knowingly wrote a bad check.
June 2017: SoupHerb owner Mark Lozier turns over the keys to the storefront during an eviction hearing.