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Boomer's Owner to Critics: Pizza Hut Will Be a Small Carry-Out Operation

By Patty Wetli | October 14, 2015 9:02am
 Pizza Hut is taking over a smaller storefront in the Boomer's strip mall, but not Boomer's itself.
Pizza Hut is taking over a smaller storefront in the Boomer's strip mall, but not Boomer's itself.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

LINCOLN SQUARE — Is Pizza Hut coming to Boomer's?

Yes ... and no.

The pizza chain has signed a lease to open a carry-out operation in the strip mall anchored by the long vacant Boomer's, but it's not taking over Boomer's footprint. In other words, the strip mall is gaining a tenant in one of its smaller storefronts, but the Boomers restaurant/bar space will remain empty.

Julia Margaris, one of the property's owners, contacted DNAinfo to clarify the Pizza Hut deal.

The confusion, she said, arose from the fact that the strip mall's official address is the one on Boomer's door — 5035 N. Lincoln Ave. — which Pizza Hut used in its permit applications.

The community's less than favorable reaction to the Pizza Hut news, as well as neighbors' overall view of Boomer's as a drag on development in Lincoln Square, caught Margaris off guard.

"We're a part of the neighborhood," she said. "We're invested in the neighborhood. We've got roots in the neighborhood."

Margaris is a second-generation owner of the property, along with members of the Karambelas and Athanasakos families. Their fathers, Greek immigrants, started buying the land bit by bit some 60 years ago.

She grew up playing in the parking lot that's now a property tax money pit. She went to Budlong Elementary, graduated from Amundsen High School and taught at Lane Tech.

What residents now know as "Boomer's" was the last in a long line of restaurants to lease the building at the corner of Lincoln and Winnemac. But at one time, it was home to The Three Bears, a small hamburger joint owned and operated by Margaris' father Gus and his business partners.

"Then Lincoln closed off, McDonald's came in and we've been struggling ever since," Margaris said, referring to the rerouting of Lincoln Avenue that took place in 1978.

"The way things worked out" with Lincoln Avenue, "it kicked us in the teeth," she said.

The Three Bears couldn't compete with McDonald's, so her father and his partners began leasing out the space, she said. A succession of restaurants came and went, ending with Boomer's, which was evicted in 2005 for non-payment of rent, according to Margaris.

The mom-and-pop restaurant that neighbors are clamoring for nearly happened in 2008.

"We signed a lease with what I thought was a good man," Margaris said. Instead the individual "demolished" the space, ripping out the bar and kitchen, she said.

"It cost us $20,000 to clean it up inside," Margaris said, adding that it would take another $1 million to renovate the space.

"We've been literally destroyed for almost 10 years. We are hanging in. We know it's an eyesore," she said.

So why not just unload the property?

"We don't want to sell. It means a lot to us ... it's literally very personal to us," Margaris said. "We're trying to honor our parents."

Pizza Hut might not be neighbors' first choice for a tenant but "it's going to pay the taxes," which amount to $75,000 a year, Margaris said. "We're happy to have them there."

Renting out the strip mall's smaller storefronts buys the owners time, should the right tenant come along for Boomer's.

"Anything but a restaurant," said Margaris, who's still snakebit by what happened in 2008.

"We're going to put somebody in there who will help us survive."


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