After three-and-a-half years in business, the owners of Cafe Du Luxe announced this week that they will be closing their restaurant located inside the Unicorn Lake development.
Via the restaurant’s Facebook page and e-mails to their customers, David Carles and his wife, Jana Etheridge, sent a message Monday morning thanking everyone for supporting their business at 3101 Unicorn Lake Blvd.
Its last business day will be Wednesday.
Carles will close the restaurant at 2 p.m. in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Carles and his wife stated in a letter that they felt the Unicorn Lake development did not become the business destination developers promised it would be.
“We are shocked that this did not turn out the way it was supposed to,” Carles said. “It is very sad.”
Carles said the development was going to be a mixed-used retail lifestyle center with office space, something he was expecting to see and needed in order for his business to thrive.
Carles and his wife opened the 2,565-square-foot restaurant July 31, 2009. Carles said they did everything they could to make the business work but often found themselves in the red.
The owners revamped the business to offer more than specialty coffees and wines. The restaurant featured music and also showcased several art exhibits.
“We believe the concept works, and in the right location, it would have worked beautifully,” Carles said Wednesday. “Did we fail to do what we wanted to do? The answer is no. We provided an amazing experience, some amazing food, great coffee, excellent customer service. We did this consistently.”
Carles said he even changed a lot of his marketing to be able to attract more customers and also asked them what they wanted to see on the menu. Yet, despite his efforts, he said he felt a lack of support from the community.
The restaurant received numerous recognitions, including the Best of Denton award for three years in a row, Taste of North Texas’ award for tastiest appetizer in 2011 and most unique entree in March 2012. The owners also had many celebrations, including a “Royal Wedding of the Century” party to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.
“For people not to have known us or discovered us or at least tried us out is impossible,” Carles said.
In 2008, Bob Shelton, the developer of Unicorn Lake, told the Denton Record-Chronicle he was pushing to fill all 150,000 square feet of retail, office and hotel space.
He said he expected “more traffic, more people and more need for retail.”
Shelton and other Unicorn Lake officials could not be reached for comment.
Sofia Del Angel, the owner of Los Toreros restaurant inside the Unicorn Lake Development, said she could not believe Cafe Du Luxe was closing.
“There is not a concept like David’s anywhere in town,” she said. “He is like all of us, working every day and doing his best.”
Del Angel said she learned of two other businesses that have closed recently at Unicorn Lake.Cafe China quietly closed its doors during Labor Day weekend after only two years in business. The other was Rino Brigliadori Jr.’s Bella Pizza & Pasta, which lasted about a year and closed in 2011.
Some of the other businesses still standing at Unicorn Lake include Curves, Beth Marie’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream and Soda Fountain, Sidewalk Bistro, Pourhouse Grill & Sports Bar, Salon La Page, Total Eyecare and RE/MAX North Associates.
Pam Livingston of the North Central Texas College Small Business Development Center said it is difficult to determine why some businesses close and others remain open and active.
“The location and/or the demographics” could be a factor, she said. “I have other clients who have been able to be so successful that they are able to shut their doors [into their first year in business] and take a vacation.”
Livingston said although the Unicorn Lake development was growing, it was probably not growing fast enough for Carles.
In a December 2011 survey of small-business owners, The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute revealed that one in seven business owners felt they would probably close their business if their revenues were to drop drastically over the next 12 to 24 months. The institute surveyed 1,100 business owners of various sizes and examined their trends for 2012.
Karen Dickson, vice president for economic development for the Denton Chamber of Commerce, stated in an e-mail that she was saddened to hear the restaurant was closing its doors.
“It has always been a pleasant and comfortable place to dine, as well as an excellent addition to the Unicorn Lake development,” she said.
Carles said his concern right now is ensuring his 11 employees, who were informed of the closing Saturday evening, find opportunities elsewhere.
“We are trying to do the right thing,” he said. “I’ve got calls out to people who left from here to see if they can go work in other places.”
Carles said employees would receive letters of recommendation and a couple of days of extra pay.
With seasonal work becoming available, Carles said he decided to “pull the plug” on his restaurant early.
“From a getting-rehired perspective, they are in a good position,” he said.
Carles said he hopes to have a plan for the property by the first quarter of 2013.
Via the restaurant’s Facebook page, customers and local musicians and artists have offered their thoughts on the closing. Many are saddened, and thank Carles and his wife for their support.
Carles said he could possibly look into reopening the concept someplace else.
“I am not sure if I will open one in Denton, though,” he said.
In the meantime, he and his wife will take a vacation.
“I am going to take some time off and do all the things I have been promising my wife we would do,” Carles said. “I have probably a dozen guitars I have not played in three and a half years.”
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .