Prolific Brooklyn restaurateur’s empire shrinks

TRD New York /
Dec.December 09, 2009 12:00 PM

Three restaurants started by Brooklyn’s most prolific restaurateur, Jim Mamary, and one of his partners, Richard Krause, were abruptly closed last week with no warning to employees. And another of their Brooklyn eateries, the troubled seafood spot Trout, is unlikely to reopen after it shuttered early this fall due to slow business.

Employees at Fly Fish in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Bueno in Boerum Hill said they were stunned to hear at staff meetings Dec. 1 that the shift would be their last.

Bueno, a European bistro that Krause opened three months ago at the intersection of Smith and Pacific Streets, is part of a complex that also included Trout, Since 1963, also closed last week, and Pacifico. Pacifico, a Mexican cantina that Mamary no longer owns a stake in, will remain open.

“They said they needed to pull in $17,000 by week’s end and they were only pulling in $13,000,” said an employee at Bueno, who requested anonymity. “Now I’m back to square one, looking for a job on the holidays.”

Mamary has had a hand in creating at least 23 restaurants in the borough since his first Brooklyn venture, the Italian eatery Restaurant 101, opened in Bay Ridge two decades ago.

Sometimes he merely helped design and build the spaces; he sold his stake in others; and 11 of his restaurants have closed or were transformed into new ventures.

For now, he owns a stake in five restaurants: Gowanus Yacht Club, Zombie Hut and Black Mountain Wine House in Carroll Gardens, Café Enduro in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Pomme de Terre in Ditmas Park.

But his immediate future plans include moving his family from Ditmas Park to New Jersey, and pulling out of day-to-day operations in Brooklyn.

“I’m going to try, at this stage of my career, to just really build and design, and find the right person to run it and/or [take over],” Mamary said. “The days of me owning and operating are over.”

Mamary is perhaps best known for Patois, which opened in 1997 on a then-foreboding stretch of Smith Street in Boerum Hill.

The French-American restaurant, which shuttered in January, was widely seen as a major catalyst in Smith Street’s transformation into Brooklyn’s preeminent restaurant row.

Many of Mamary’s later ventures were likewise viewed as pioneers in gentrifying neighborhoods that lacked mid-priced sit-down fare. Cafe Enduro opened on a shabby block of Lincoln Road anchored by the Prospect Park subway station that still falls victim to robberies. And Pomme de Terre sprouted from a former bodega on Newkirk Avenue that was the scene of a shooting just weeks before its grand opening.

Riding on the wave of success at Cafe Enduro, Mamary and Krause opened a BBQ restaurant called Whisky Sunday in a neighboring nail salon last year. After a tepid response from locals, they painted the walls blue and hung nautical taxidermy, replaced much of the menu with seafood, and reincarnated the joint as Fly Flish.

Mamary ascribed its failure to the absence of Krause, who did not return phone calls. “When you’re an owner and you’re not on the premises all the time, that’s what happens,” Mamary said. He added that the Fly Fish space, which is connected to Enduro through the kitchen and a swinging dining room door, could see yet another reincarnation “with less of a food venue.”

The future of the spaces formerly occupied by Bueno, Since 1963 and Trout is unknown. Mamary sold off his stake in the space two summers ago and was not involved in Bueno, but was a partner in Since 1963, an extension of the Southern BBQ concept that failed on Lincoln Road.

Despite planning a move away from the borough and day-to-day toiling in its restaurants, Mamary said he’s still contemplating new ventures in Crown Heights and Greenpoint.

And he also plans to expand Pomme de Terre into a neighboring storefront and “tweak the concept.”

The new menu would be “more sensitive to the economic times right now,” when people are less apt to splurge on a $40 brunch, he said. Free refills on mimosas, a popular feature, would obviously stay.

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