Arrow Street Crepes to Close Permanently
Restaurant Has Not Been Profitable Since Its Opening, Will Close After Commencement
Arrow Street Crepes will permanently close its restaurant in the Student Center due to financial difficulties, said Director of Campus Dining Richard D. Berlin III.
“We really have not been profitable since the day that we opened,” said owner James Murray. “We’ve made a decision to close because it cost a little bit more money each month to run the creperie than the creperie would take in.”
Berlin said that Arrow Street will remain open until June 11 so that it can continue to serve the MIT community through commencement.
Arrow Street expected more sales
Murray said that high operating expenses had made him consider closing Arrow Street as early as its second quarter, but he had kept the store open in hopes that business would improve.
He said that the creperie’s losses, especially during the summer, prevented him from opening up another creperie and bubble tea shop near Porter Square.
Berlin said that the Office of Campus Dining had been working with Arrow Street to increase sales and that he was surprised to hear of Arrow Street’s decision to close.
“They expected to do more business” then they ended up doing, said Berlin. “We were working with them for some time, trying to come up with ways to help their situation.”
Murray said that despite developing a new breakfast menu last April and adjusting its hours of operation, Arrow Street has not been able to permanently increase its sales.
The decision to close was made as it became clear that Arrow Street could not compete with the other food vendors in the Student Center, Murray said.
“We had very high expectations for success,” he said. “We had very much wanted to continue operation, but had to make a decision based on numbers.”
“We have to cut our losses, as much as we have enjoyed serving the MIT community, and move on to other projects,” Murray said.
Arrow Street criticizes MIT
“The Office of Campus Dining has a mandate to offer the community high quality food, but it’s very difficult to offer the kind of food we prepare, which is non-processed food,” said Murray.
He also criticized MIT’s policy of controlling prices, saying that it detracts from business in the Harvard Square store and is not complimentary to the type of food Arrow Street serves.
“The Office of Campus Dining permits one price increase a year,” Murray said. “The reality of the commodities market that we deal with is a stark contrast to the idea of price controls.”
Murray cited a recent 40 percent price increase in the dairy market and fluctuating prices for fresh strawberries as an example of the factors that make it difficult to conform to MIT’s pricing structure. The cost of fresh strawberries runs from $15 per case when they are in season to $56 per case when they aren’t, he said.
With the closing of the MIT shop, Arrow Street plans to expand its store in Harvard Square by opening a new space at 1154 Massachusetts Avenue. Murray said that most of the employees of the MIT branch will be able to work in the new store.
“It is our hope to retain as many of our employees as would be willing to move to our Harvard Square store,” Murray said.
Survey asks for suggestions
Berlin said he expects a new vendor to move into the space during the summer and be ready to reopen in early fall.
He said the Office of Campus Dining has posted an online survey to gather feedback and suggestions for what kind of vendor the campus would like to see move into the space. The survey is available at http://web.mit.edu/dining/feedback/surveys.html.
Berlin said that the space would be suitable for both an independent restaurant and a chain. “The way it’s set up, it doesn’t need a lot of changes. The changes we made to build the crepe restaurant can be reconfigured.”
He said he expects a large number of responses from interested vendors. “There’s not a more visible retail spot on all of campus,” he said.
The Campus Dining Advisory Board, made up of members from the Undergraduate Association, the Graduate Student Council, faculty, and staff, will choose the new vendor, Berlin said.
He said they will be looking for several factors, including a desire to be at MIT, necessary resources, and the ability to make sure MIT is financially compensated.
“It’s a matter of making sure we’re choosing the right venue so that people go there and it’s popular,” said Berlin.