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Goodbye, Griddlers Café

Popular late night eatery's owner forced to close business due to undisclosed health concerns.

Griddlers Café in Menomonee Falls always prided itself on its 24/7 service, but the doors are now shut and locked — perhaps permanently — on the popular late-night dining location.

A sign hangs on the doorway informing patrons that Griddlers is closed, but will open again at “6 a.m. Tomorrow." However, that tomorrow could apply to many more tomorrows down the road.

Don Hensiak, co-founder of the now five-restaurant franchise, said Falls Griddlers owner Diane Neavins was forced to close the eatery due to undisclosed health issues. Neavins has operated a George Webb or Griddlers franchise at that location since 1985.

“The owner Diane Neavins has decided to shut down that location due primarily to some health issues,” Hensiak said. “It’s a small business that really requires the time and dedication of an owner and operator. She’s been trying really hard, but just hasn’t been able to be there.”

Another behemoth of an obstacle preventing Griddlers from continued operation is three buried gas tanks underneath the property. They were discovered a few months back when the business had a faulty gas meter. The emergency repairs needed shut the restuarant down for several weeks. Neavins owns the building that Griddlers is located in. 

During the repairs, crews discovered the gas tanks. The cost to remove them would essentially destroy the business for Neavins, and she's working to resolve that issue before opening a restaurant there again. 

"She couldn't move forward with an expense like that. It's a major capital investment for a newer business," Hesniak said. "She won't be able to run a restaurant there until that's resovled." 

Hensiak said he doesn’t have a clear picture for the future of Griddlers in Falls — as it closed rather suddenly just a day ago. However, there still may be hope for Griddlers in downtown. 

“We are hopeful there could be a chance we get another owner in there, but the Falls location will be closed indefinitely. We won’t know anything for at least a couple weeks,” Hensiak said.

However, removing the buried gas tanks will be a first step before opening again. 

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A Family Feud of Sorts

Griddlers, which used to operate as a George Webb, opened in fall 2011 after several Webb franchise owners decided to split from the family and start something new. Perhaps more accurately, they wanted to hold on to the old ways.

In an interview with Patch in 2011, Neavins said some franchise owners weren’t seeing eye-to-eye with Webb’s owner Phil Anderson. Neavins said they felt constricted to what they could do with their business, and also saw some of their franchise fees increase.

Griddlers, Neavins said, was homage to the old days at George Webb where franchise owners had more freedom to run their business in a way that suited them, and less standardization. Neavins' father was one of the original George Webb franchise owners in the 1950s.

The other five Griddlers locations are open and business is humming. The other franchises are located at 10706 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis; 4160 W. Loomis Rd. and 7510 W. Layton Ave. in Greenfield; 2012 W. Layton Ave., Milwaukee; 211 N. Chicago Ave., South Milwaukee.

Cx2plusE@aol.com February 01, 2013 at 11:47 AM
That's to bad. I liked it there.
Richard February 01, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Here's our invasive government at work again causing undo costs for many a business large and small. I would guess that the subject buried gas tanks have been there a very long time, perhaps 50 years or more and to date apparently have not caused any problems. But todays so called environmental laws require the discovered gas tanks to be removed, why couldn't they just stay there for another 50 years or so not hurting a soul!! Versus causing a good business to cease operating because of the financial impact due to requiring the tanks to be removed. Feel very sorry for Ms. Neavins who could very well lose a lifetime of work including her abode.
Bob Reinhardt February 01, 2013 at 03:19 PM
This place when it was a Webb's used to be a great breakfast spot a few years back. All the good staff left and so did the customers.
Richard February 01, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Another good small business closes to the tune of government environmental rules. Closing of Griddlers Cafe probably has more to do with the expense of required removal of two buried gas tanks than to health issues of the owners of the business and property, Ms. Neavins. Im gonna guess that those buried gas tanks have been there a very long time perhaps 50 years or more. The tanks don't seem to be causing a problem for anyone but perhaps the environmental rules. The cost of removal of the subject tanks are too much for Ms. Neavins to handle. How sad, she will probably lose a lifetime of work, her business and place of abode as well as good retirement prospects. All due to government regulations regarding removal of buried gas tanks that could be left there without hurting a soul for another 50 or so years.
Richard February 01, 2013 at 05:41 PM
What is causing my comment to remain in a pending mode?
Richard February 01, 2013 at 06:17 PM
It's been busy when we have been there, the employees were friendly and accommodating, and the food tastier than the local Greek run restaurants.
Richard February 01, 2013 at 06:19 PM
Hmmm, sounds more like the Greek restaurants in the Falls to me. We have been there several times and didn't have your experiences and it has been busy everytime we've been there. Prices were reasonable and the staff friendly and eager to satisfy.
Richard February 01, 2013 at 06:22 PM
That one too, lots of vacant commercial space in the Falls. Same old story of Falls residents not supporting Falls businesses. It's sad, I sure wouldn't try to start a new business in the Falls unless it was a medical complex, must be plenty of sick people in the Falls.
Richard February 01, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Me to.
Richard February 01, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Sounds like Ms. Neavins ran the Webb's so I don't understand how you came up with your staff change info. Actually, I felt that the food was better after it became a Griddlers.
Jann February 01, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Richard if you think the people in the Falls don't support local businesses try getting into SuCasa or AJ O'bradys on the weekends. 3 cuisines was in an odd location as people couldn't really see it from the road. I also never got the concept of 3 different cuisines. A lot of people go to restaurants that offer a specialty such as Mexican or Irish. That way you figure the chefs have worked on perfecting one type of thing.
Carl Engelking February 01, 2013 at 07:16 PM
I'm not sure why the comments were pending for so long. I think we fixed a bug to prevent spam from hitting the sites, and it may have held up comments for a bit. Looks like we are back and fully operational again. I was wondering why no one was commenting on this story!
Benedons, Inc February 01, 2013 at 07:16 PM
just in case you say something vulgar...they scan before posting... In any event, my business was in the Colonial for 3 years, and we did very well. We're down the road next to the post office, now. I think the colonial could do much better for themselves and the vendors if they spent some time on the place. The owners are in Illinois and the rental company doesn't give a rat's tail about the center. Give me some marketing money and one year, I'd have the place full.
Carl Engelking February 01, 2013 at 07:18 PM
That's a good point Benedons. I've wanted to look at the vacancy rates in strip malls in Falls and compare the rates of locally owned malls, versus malls that are owned by some out of state entity. I think Colonial Square has a lot of potential, but a few improvements in the facility and signage could make it a better draw.
Carl Engelking February 01, 2013 at 07:20 PM
Jann, I would say I am surprised not by how well AJ O'Brady's has done, but AJ's Live. Bruce has successfully tapped into two completely different markets in Falls, and both businesses are doing very well on Main Street. AJ's Live is drawing big crowds for live music during the week, but there are two completely different "vibes" or "themes" there - and they are right next door.
Susan C February 01, 2013 at 07:22 PM
I was a frequent customer at 3 Cuisines and absolutely loved it. It was my "go to" place. I liked the variety and every time I went, I tried something different. The 3 cuisine concept was great if you couldn't decide what you were in the mood for: American, Mexican, Italian. The place to do with a group so everyone got something they wanted. Sad to see it close. But, the location was not good.
Jann February 01, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Carl, AJ's Live and AJ Obrady's are both advertised in publications also. They have a great location which 3 Cuisines did not, but I don't remember seeing much if any advertising for 3 Cuisines. The breakfast place that was in there a while back did a good business, but they also advertised.
Carl Engelking February 01, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Business owners should advertise on Patch!
Richard February 01, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Jann, Aj's and SuCasa are doing well with their appeal essentially to the younger set, especially SuCasa. Actually we preferred their old location as it seemed more quaint and we felt the food was better there. We actually like their sister location in Pewaukee better. AJ's is a bit pricing for us and Irish cuisine is not exactly on our radar. Let's wait and see on them as there have been several failures at their location since Betsy's. Guess what we would be interested in is a good breakfast alternative to the Greek places in the Falls. Perhaps AJ's could open for breakfast and draw a different crowd for that.
Carl Engelking February 01, 2013 at 08:45 PM
AJ's is open for breakfast on the weekends, and their menu isn't all Irish. I would say they have a few specialties, but a lot of American standards on the menu. The Shepherd's Pie is very good there.
Richard February 01, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Good point Carl, the Colonial management certainly pay minimal attention to the upkeep of their investment. Advertising is good for a non-franchise restaurant however word of mouth for a good place will usually trump ads and not kill you with more expense.
Jann February 01, 2013 at 10:39 PM
Richard, you have to advertise at least in the beginning so people know you are even there. We happened to drive past the new Falls Pub & Grill and see a sign that they were opening, but it was the article on the Patch that got everyone in there on opening night. That is how most people we talked to found out about it.
Jann February 01, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Richard, I grew up in the 60's and 70's and I go to both AJ's and Su Casa. Thanks for calling me a youngster! Try AJ's burger night, if you don't put 10 things extra on your burger like one of my kids does it's quite a deal. I think you have to order a couple of drinks though to get the deal, but that never stopped me.
Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) February 01, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Location means a lot, but more importantly, as is the case specifically to restaurants, word of mouth is what draws numbers. There's a reason why these places close due to a lack of business - they suck. I feel for the owners, but diners like Griddlers Cafes and George Webbs are at the bottom of the totem pole to begin with, maybe even below Greek joints and Chinese buffets. And yes, I go to all these places along with the all the fast food chains and fine dining establishments.
Cx2plusE@aol.com February 02, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Try the new placed that opened. Falls Pub and Grille. Used to be Rich's on Fond du Lac. It's pretty good.
Richard February 02, 2013 at 12:05 PM
Will give it a try, what's the best item to try.
Cx2plusE@aol.com February 02, 2013 at 12:07 PM
Only been there twice.
Richard February 02, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Well, what did you have, how was the service?
Richard February 02, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Hence why the Colonial Restaurant folded after it moved into larger space. The whole center should be condemned.
Arnie Rump April 06, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Can anyone tell me what happened to Villagio?

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