café zenon closed, not with a bang but a whimper

Just heard on the news that Zenon closed suddenly today.  Apparently, it had been on the market for a few months, but they decided to shut the doors for good abruptly.  Let their manager know this morning.  I don’t know the whole story (obviously), but that sounds like a pretty shitty way to treat loyal employees, if you ask me.  We won’t hear that on the news, so I thought I’d say it here.

14 thoughts on “café zenon closed, not with a bang but a whimper

  1. TheBon 27 October 2008 / 10:50 pm

    I felt bad for the kid who showed up to work his shift because they hadn’t bothered to contact all the employees. That seems pretty shameful to me.


  2. Keith Johnson 28 October 2008 / 3:49 am

    There is no excuse for treating employees like that. Last year the Hillcrest Restaurant in Cadillac closed after being in business for over 50 years.
    Doug, the owner, not only notified employees but also called many of the customers the night before it was actually closed.
    Loyalty still counts for something with some people, thankfully.


  3. Mr. Sean 28 October 2008 / 10:36 pm

    That’s lame, Zenon made a great breakfast, one of my favorite spots in town. I heard similarly about the Palace bakery transfer of ownership.


  4. brightviolet 30 October 2008 / 7:36 am

    They should be ashamed of such poor treatment of their employees, especially ones who’ve worked there for a longer time.

    No great loss other than the jobs thought. I never got the Zenon hype. Mediocre, overpriced food served in a restaurant with the look and atmosphere of your average unadorned aquarium.


  5. Regan 30 October 2008 / 1:22 pm

    I was surprised, but not too surprised, because I felt the food had been sliding for awhile. Once upon a time it had been one of our favorites, but really not in the last couple of years or so.

    I couldn’t believe that they just pulled the plug on the employees like that; that just seemed beyond the pale no matter what the circumstances.


  6. dave 3 November 2008 / 1:39 pm

    I was the Exec. Chef when Zenon Closed. I found out for sure about the closure the day before. That morning, I sat with the owner & called all the employees to let them know… Unfortunately, some employees did not have current phone numbers on file & were unreachable. As for the decision to close, Well… IT SUCKS! but the owner did the right thing by the employees. He realized that he was going to have problems making payroll so he shut the doors with just enough money in the bank to cut the final paychecks. Times are Tough for everyone in the industry right now, & I just hope you gossip hounds give the next closing restaurant a little dignity!


  7. Eugenia 3 November 2008 / 2:37 pm

    Thanks for your perspective, Dave. Hope you’re able to transition into a new job with few worries.


  8. Belinda 8 November 2008 / 4:07 pm

    Listen to someone who worked at Zenon, other than the so-called executive chef whose mediocrity is surpassed only by his ego. Employee paychecks had been bouncing for months, food quality continuing to slide as the remaining decent Zenon crew relocated to better jobs, poor management and overall low morale contributed to the downward spiral of the once awesome restaurant. The owner did not consider the feelings of anyone other than himself when he closed the restaurant without warning. Staff was not notified in advance of the closure, and despite what was written above, it was the manager, not the cook, who took it upon herself to call the employees and notify them. Now these people are struggling with being unemployed and trying to find jobs in the already stretched industry. All except the exec. chef, that is. He had already planned to make his debut @ Bel Ami and is now back with his former kitchen supervisors.


  9. Eugenia 9 November 2008 / 1:10 am

    Thanks for your perspective, too, Belinda. There are often many sides to a story, and it sounds like the demise of Zenon has left some bitterness. No matter who called the employees, I still feel bad for them. A one-day notice isn’t enough time to find a job, especially in Eugene.


  10. John C 11 November 2008 / 10:33 am

    I ate at Zenon with my sister in the Fall of 2005 and found the experience just as nice when I visited 1 or 2 times before. At those times the fare was orginal, a bit pricy, and bontiful.

    There is another thing that closes nice small businesses quickly, at least in the SF Bay Area. It is a lease renewal or the dinial thereof, especially with a new property owner who sometimes has to have other ideas because too much was paid for the property, that would cause a killer rent increase…or the boot.


  11. dave 17 November 2008 / 11:04 am

    To set the record straight…
    I was the Exec. Chef for the last four months… I inherited a world of debt.
    I worked my ass off to save the place, but was unable to do so.
    As of yet, I’m unemployed as well as half of my old staff.
    As for the old exec. who is currently at bel ami… He’s a good man, and a wonderful chef.
    Belinda, If your going to wax intellecual about a subject, make sure you have all the details.

    bitter ex-chef dave


  12. Sara 28 November 2008 / 12:22 am

    It’s always a tragedy for everyone when a restaurant or retail business goes down. I have no idea why everyone is trying to place blame. All the employee’s are eligible for unemployment compensation to take them through the job search.
    The owner has probably lost the most. He took the entire risk, most of the responsibility. Did anyone sign up to share his losses?? When was the last time YOU provided 20 people with a job?


  13. Eugenia 28 November 2008 / 7:44 am

    Sara, I find your logic troublesome. Just because a business owner provides minimum wage (or thereabouts) jobs for employees, she/he isn’t exempt ethically from treating them decently. No one doubts the owner has lost the most, but the loss of the business had *reasons*, it’s not just something that happened. Here’s my issue with the whole thing: labor is cheap in Eugene, as we all know, and often people like waitresses and dishwashers are treated as if they are expendable. So many people are living on the edge of poverty (if not fully occupying that space), and a simple thing like a lack of notice can throw them into a tailspin.

    Zenon may or may not have treated its employees well in general, but giving people less than 24 hours notice that the place was closing (if that) is not treating the employees well.

    What I’m really hoping is that other business owners learn from this example. More local businesses are going to fail in this economy; that’s just a fact of life. I hope they treat their workers ethically, in every way possible.


  14. James Jose Carter 5 January 2009 / 10:44 am

    I was devastated to hear of the Zenon’s closure. I was a dishwasher there from ’96-98, when Zenon was on top of the Eugene restaurant heap. It made an impression on me which will last my entire life and I hold it in my mind as a magnificent place. I tasted things there which are some of the most vivid flavors I’ve ever experienced and I have wished for years to find a place like it in Portland where I now live, but after ten years I still haven’t found anything quite like Zenon. I have often considered moving back to Eugene if I could work at Zenon. To hear of its passing saddens me greatly. It was a beautiful, classy place and I miss it very much already.


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