Teary-eyed patrons say bye to Marble Hill Mickey D’s

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Whenever Maria Lugo had a craving, she knew she could turn to the Golden Arches. 

Lugo, a certified nursing assistant, said her hectic days take her to all five boroughs, attending patients in their homes. She works up an appetite on her travels, and could always depend on the McDonald’s at 5201 Broadway for a quick and satisfying bite.

Lugo will have to find somewhere else to go, however. This slice of burger bliss in the heart of Marble Hill closed its doors on Monday. Permanently.

“You guys are leaving — no!” said Lugo, who’d been a faithful customer at this particular McDonald’s since moving to the neighborhood 10 years ago. “They’re awesome.” 

Lugo was on the verge of tears as she hugged a manager. 

“I don’t want them to leave,” she said. “They already know me. It’s like a family here.”

Now she’ll have to go to another McDonald’s almost a mile further north on Broadway, between West 236th and 237th streets, when hunger swoops in. 

With little notice, there’s now one less place to fill up on McNuggets, fries, patties and shakes in this part of the Bronx, and loyal locals like Lugo suspect rising rent might be partly to blame.

On Monday morning, fewer than 10 customers sat in booths hunched over steaming paper cups of coffee, several of them speaking in hushed tones on their cell phones as “Somebody’s Watching Me” and, later, “Fame” played on the speakers. 

This particular Big Mac outpost has been a mainstay on this sometimes bustling, sometimes bleak strip of Broadway in Marble Hill for more than 15 years, according to several customers, many who came in to say their goodbyes to employees.

High rent isn’t the only likely culprit, said Orlando Kross, owner of the nearby Flowers by Zenda at 5217 Broadway, and leader of the Marble Hill Merchants Association. Quality-of-life issues — like rambunctious school kids fighting out front, as well as a noticeable drug presence in the area — might also have contributed to the restaurant’s reported struggle to stay afloat.

Adam Falzon, who’d stopped in for breakfast after a long night, said he makes this McDonald’s a regular part of his morning routine, where he favors bacon, egg and cheese on a flaky biscuit, washed down with coffee.

“It’s sad to see it go,” added Aida Vasquez, Falzon’s wife. Although she doesn’t count herself a regular, “When you have kids, it’s just an easy thing to stop by and grab something. And the location’s really good because the malls are right there, and there’s not a lot of places to eat down there.”

Falzon didn’t even realize the restaurant was closing until he saw the sign on the door that morning. And Vasquez, who lived in the neighborhood when she was younger, said it’s always been hard to keep good businesses in the area.

“We’ve never been able to see stores that really last in this strip right here,” she said. 

“Minus the pizzeria — that’s the only place that has stood the test of time, because the rent increases are so astronomical, they can’t make money. So they end up leaving.”

Still, she said, the fact that McDonald’s is closing is “shocking.”

“Mom-and-pop shops, you expect it,” she said. “But McDonald’s can’t survive? That’s just indicative of what it’s like.”

The 5201 Broadway McDonald’s first opened in September 2002, said Amanda Pisano, New York metro region brand reputation manager for McDonald’s USA. Why it was closing, Pisano wouldn’t say, citing “a general rule” the company doesn’t comment on reasons behind restaurant closures.

The franchise was owned by Chris Trefz, the son of the late Ernest Trefz, who opened his first McDonald’s in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1964.

The jobs at this location won’t be lost, however. Employees were offered jobs at other restaurants, Trefz said.

But that won’t fill the hole left by the 5201 Broadway closing, and all Lugo could do was make the best of it. 

“I’ll see you around, I know it,” Lugo said to the manager, before turning around and walking out the door. For the last time.

Comments

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TruthTeller

Kind of a weird article since when did a McDonald's ever become part of the fabric of Riverdale?

Also, it's a good thing people are eating less of this gmo laden, pesticide and antibiotic ridden mystery meat and gmo potatoes fried in god knows what. People's health might improve a bit now that this toxic waste dump is closed.

I also wonder about shifting demographics as it relates to this story, as well as how bad the economy really is that people aren't even patronizing McDonalds anymore. I've been reading on alt-media about McDonald's shutting down all over the US as people start to recognize healthier eating habits. I'm glad to see this trend possibly hitting our area.

Friday, December 22, 2017
Michael Hinman

Just to note that McDonald's worldwide had a net gain in restaurants, at least the first three quarters versus the first three quarters.

And also, this is in Marble Hill.

Friday, December 22, 2017
TruthTeller

You did notice I said they were shutting down all over the US did you? Net gain worldwide means nothing. Developing economies are trying to ape the lifestyles of the west and eating McDonalds is part of that. Once the health effects become well-known enough in those lands, the same thing will start happening.

And while Marble Hill is technically within the coverage area of this paper, I could have used that column space for much more relevant-to-the-community articles. I would venture a guess that most people reading this article scratched their heads as to why it was printed.

Friday, December 22, 2017
Michael Hinman

Mr. Teller:

When you become editor of this paper, you can put in whatever you like. :)

However, we cover all of Community Board 8, and I am very satisfied with the coverage we provided here for some place that many in that particular part of our coverage area enjoyed going to. And we've already received some tremendous feedback about it as well.

Thanks for your comments, however!

Friday, December 22, 2017
CelticWoman

"Quality-of-life issues — like rambunctious school kids fighting out front, as well as a noticeable drug presence in the area — might also have contributed to the restaurant’s reported struggle to stay afloat."

Right - quality of life issues this idiot mayor continues to ignore.

Friday, December 22, 2017
noclist

No mention of the recent increase in minimum wage on Jan.1 as a possible reason? Profitability is always a reason to stay open or not.

Thursday, January 4
Riverdale__NY

@Michael Hinman:

You can't expect people to question such an article when the name of the newspaper is "The Riverdale Press". Give us a break. We both know this paper is considered Riverdale's local newspaper, so the fact that you are so offended by the comments is rather comical. I agree with the others. If you're naming the paper "The Riverdale Press", it should be on issues IN Riverdale.

Riverdale, NY - 10463/10471 - For a better Riverdale, for ALL Riverdalians!

Friday, January 5
Michael Hinman

@Riverdale_NY:

The coverage area of this newspaper is Community Board 8. I believe it always has been Community Board 8, or at least has been for a very long time. Because of that, we cover all the communities found with CB8, which includes Marble Hill.

When you start your own newspaper, you're absolutely free to restrict your coverage to what's on the nameplate, and then poke other papers. Not just this one, but the New York Times (which covers more than New York), the Washington Post (which covers more than Washington), and even the USA Today, which covers more than the USA. :)

Friday, January 5