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.
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.