Dishing-up Fresh Opportunities in Stale Economy

Bankers Hill venture sees great upside in 'down market'


San Diego's restaurant and nightclub scene is littered with financial failures over the past year. But in the midst of the downturn, there's still optimism about new ventures.

A promising case in point has found a site on the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Ivy Street, which used to house a restaurant called Modus Supper Club.

It closed several months ago.

But out of its economic ashes, another eatery -- to be named Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant -- is in the process of arising.

"We're going to be a lower price-point, neighborhood-y, casual, comfortable place where you can hang out and meet your friends," says co-owner Terryl Gavre.

Her investment partner is noted chef and restaurateur Carl Schroeder.

Gavre is ramrodding the Bankers Hill remodeling project while running her Cafe 222, at Second Avenue and Island Street in the Marina District.

Cafe 222 has been featured on the Food Network, and is a 17-year success story in an industry where failure is all too common. Gavre sees great upside in the current 'down market’; starting with lower lease and purchase costs as more and more landlords of vacant spaces go begging for income.

"Also, there's a lot of talent out there," Gavre said. "There are really good servers and chefs and managers who are out of work and looking for work."

While opening a new restaurant in recessionary times is quite a risk, "(Gavre's) going into that mid-range price point, and being in a residential, local area probably will work to here advantage for sure," said La Jolla resident Caitlin Montgomery.

Columbia resident Alex Frie agrees.

"The high-end (restaurant niche) is always going to be there, but if you have a good mid-range, that keeps a lot of people staying in the area, and repeat business," he said.

That business model appears to be working in other residential/commercial corridors surrounding downtown, such as Hillcrest along University Avenue; University Heights and along Park Boulevards and Adams Avenue; and North Park and South Park along 30th Street.

"The opportunities are there," says Jamie Hawkins, a contractor who specializes in restaurant remodeling, and numbers Gavre among a growing clientele of veteran restaurateurs who are upgrading and expanding.

"The deals are there if you pursue them."

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