22-year institution defaults, is evicted
By Jason Starr
Mexicali Grill and Cantina, a Mexican restaurant that opened in Williston in 1995, was evicted last week from Maple Tree Place. Its last day of operation was Tuesday.
Owner Stewart Corey accepted responsibility for defaulting on his lease agreement with property owner Cypress Equities. Corey said rent checks in February and March had bounced. But, on the cusp of Mexicali’s traditionally busy season, he had hoped to renegotiate his agreement with the Texas-based company to keep the business alive.
His overtures fell on deaf ears.
“That’s big Texas,” Corey said Wednesday morning as he, former Mexicali owner Nick Charboneau and several employees dismounted Mexican memorabilia from the restaurant’s walls. “They moved very quickly, and any plea that I made was not accepted. There was no changing their minds.”
A call to Cypress Equities’ communications manager Glenn Miller was not returned Wednesday.
A sign on the front door says the restaurant is closed “for good.” But inside, Corey said he plans to revive Mexicali in some form. A mobile food cart, a catering business, a strictly take-out place or a sit-down restaurant in another location are all possibilities.
“We are going to try to get another space, keep the brand alive and move forward,” he said. “I’m open to all options. This is the end of a chapter for Mexicali, but it’s not the end of the book.”
Charboneau worked in the original Mexicali restaurant before taking over as owner in the late 1990s. He moved the restaurant to Maple Tree Place in 2006. Corey bought the restaurant from him last May. Three months later, Cypress Equities acquired Maple Tree Place, becoming Corey’s new landlord.
The company owns property in several states amounting to “more than 20 million square feet of retail, office, residential, automotive and industrial real estate,” according to its website.
“(Mexicali) has been a staple in this community and it’s sad to see,” Charboneau said. “Big commercial corporations come in and do what they do.”
Charboneau has since moved to Maine and taken over a seafood restaurant.
Corey said about 40 employees will be affected by the closure.