Words & Deeds

Boise restaurant to close after 36 years, meaning a California chain is leaving Idaho

You have through the end of the day Jan. 26 to grab a slice of key lime pie — or a whole one — at 8574 W. Fairview Ave.
You have through the end of the day Jan. 26 to grab a slice of key lime pie — or a whole one — at 8574 W. Fairview Ave. Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery

Tons of restaurant chains expand into Boise to get their piece of the pie.

But the pie will all be gone soon — at least on Fairview Avenue.

Marie Callender’s Restaurant & Bakery, 8574 W. Fairview, will close this Friday, Jan. 26.

There are no plans to relocate the restaurant, according to Katie Chalmers, account executive at Murphy O’Brien Public Relations, which represents the Orange County-based restaurant chain.

That means Marie Callender’s hasn’t just left the building — it’s left the Gem State. Boise had the only Marie Callender’s location in Idaho.

While the exit might trigger applause among locavores and California-loathing Idahoans, it’s hard not to ponder ol’ Marie Callender’s with nostalgia.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Karen Downey, a shift manager, who has worked at the restaurant for 28 years. “I’m going to miss my customers. I’ve got people I waited on when they were kids, and now they’re adults and they bring their kids in. I’ve been through people getting married and divorced, the husband dying and the wife dying, graduation parties and holidays with these people.”

Marie Callender began selling her pies in Orange County in the 1940s and opened her first pie shop in the city of Orange in 1964. Five years later, the shops began offering a full restaurant menu. The chain had 156 restaurants in 1998, the Orange County Register reported. Today, 50 are left, most in California, with a handful in Nevada and Utah.

The Boise restaurant opened in 1982. A Marie Callender Ala Carte restaurant at the Boise Towne Square mall closed in 1998. In 2007, voters in the Idaho Statesman’s annual Best of Treasure Valley competition gave Marie Callender’s the award for best brunch.

Marie Callender’s merged with Perkins Family Restaurants, another bakery-cafe chain that formerly operated in Boise, in 2006. But it struggled to compete with fast-casual restaurants, which make meals to order without table service. In 2011, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A restructuring led to the closure of 31 Marie Callender’s restaurants in eight states, the Register reported.

In 2017, sales dropped 5.7 percent to $139.8 million, according to Technomic, a market research firm in Chicago.

Downey blamed rising rent for the closure. The property is owned by Bews Apple Pie, operated by a trust set up for the survivors of Edward L. Bews, who died in 2016. The Statesman was unable to reach a representative for the trust.

A 30-day suspension of the restaurant’s liquor license played no role in the closure, Downey said. The license was suspended after Boise police found that the restaurant sold alcohol to an underage buyer. It was the second time the restaurant had been cited in the past three years, said Capt. Brad Doty of the Idaho State Police’s Alcohol Beverage Control division.

The license was reinstated Sunday. Marie Callender’s will have 90 days after closing to lease or sell the license to another establishment, Doty said. The going rate in Boise, where there are 144 licenses, is $175,000, Doty said.

The Boise restaurant has 26 employees. Other restaurants have reached out to notify workers of openings. Downey said she’s not sure what she’ll do.

“I’m on for bigger and better things,” Downey said. “I’ve been in the restaurant business for a long time, and it’s time for me to step back and just get something a little bit easier on my body.”

If you’re one of those meanies celebrating the closing, have some pie. You’ve got until Friday.

“I’m not sure of the exact time,” Downey said. “They said maybe 4 o’clock — before the dinner rush and after the lunch rush.”

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