UPPER EAST SIDE — Mon Petit Café owners are calling it quits after more than two decades in the neighborhood, citing sky high costs — rent alone at their Lexington Avenue space has more than tripled since they opened there in 1984.
The longtime French bistro at the corner of East 62nd Street shuttered for good after brunch service this past Sunday, leaving behind a letter on the window explaining its decision to close.
"The climate for small business like ours in New York City has become a crushing force," the letter reads.
"Mom-and-pop stores of all kinds are now an endangered species in our city. Small business are all but disappeared in our neighborhood, giving way to massive Duane Reades, banks and Starbucks on seemingly every corner. Despite our best efforts to keep MPC alive, our reality is that we carried on 'in the red' for quite some time."
Owners Daniele Valensi and her daughter Alessandra McCarthy, who were packing up the remainder of their cafe on Tuesday, said their rent started at $8,500 a month when they first opened in the space as Cafe Bonjour in 1984.
The rent has jumped to $29,000 a month since then, not including taxes, utility bills and salaries, according to Valensi, 68.
"I couldn't pay my rent," she said. "And because Mon Petit Café has a church on the block, we are not allowed to have a bar and can only sell wine and beer, which is a big handicap."
"We are done," she added. "This is a very difficult time."
Fans of the restaurant, which serves a variety of sandwiches, quiches, salads and French entrees, took to social media to express their grief over the closing, including English comedian Ricky Gervais, who called it his "favourite place in NY."
No!!!— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) February 27, 2017
My favourite place in NY to sit outside & watch the world, (and their dogs), go by. 😭 https://t.co/79fA4iVClr
"I am absolutely devastated," wrote Jenny Ball on the restaurant's Facebook page. "Since I was little my parents have taken me to your restaurant every year on my birthday. It was my favorite part of the day. I have such great memories.. thank you!"
Paul Gori, who used to eat at the restaurant three times a week when visiting the Upper East Side, called it his "home away from home."
"I always ordered the same dish — sole. Simply delicious," he wrote on the eatery's Facebook page. "The staff was always wonderful and made me feel welcomed. Always. I also enjoyed my first date at Mon Petit and she is now the love of my life. Alessandra, to you, your sweet mom and entire staff, I thank you for my NYC home away from home. You will truly be missed."
Valensi's foray into the restaurant industry began with her husband Paul in 1984. They first opened at the Lexington Avenue address as Café Bonjour, but then moved to a larger 280-seat space near the United Nations Building.
About five years later, in August 1990, her husband died, and Valensi moved back to the Lexington Avenue spot to run the business alone.
"I was a little lost," she said. "I had friends who helped me start again...and here I am 26 years later after my husband's passing."
Her daughter, Alessandra McCarthy, started working in her parents' restaurant when she was 13 and took over as co-owner 10 years ago.
Since then, McCarthy, who is now nine months pregnant, has launched her own catering business called "Chef Aless," and plans to have her mom join her now that Mon Petite Café has closed.
"[This restaurant has meant] everything," McCarthy said. "It is what it is. It's unfortunate but so many people have gone through it. There have been too many tears."