Rumor mill hurting business: Prickly Pear Southwest Cafe is alive, well and open for business
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
Business has fallen 3 percent to 4 percent over the past three months, since news reports that the building it occupies on South Main Street in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor was up for sale.
Prickly Pear employees field a dozen calls a day from customers asking if they are still open, Pearce said. And his wife’s business, Main Street Massage Therapy, located on the second floor above the Prickly Pear, has suffered, Pearce said. There’s been a significant drop in the number of gift certificates sold. People don’t want to buy gift certificates if they fear a business won’t be around, he said.
Prickly Pear is alive, open for business and has no plans of closing, Pearce said.
That doesn’t mean he is immune to change, Pearce said. While he signed a five-year lease in August, Pearce said he knows new owners could make changes.
Jim Chaconas of Colliers International, the listing broker for the Prickly Pear property, is marketing the two-story building as a redevelopment opportunity — which could potentially include adding height and depth to the building for condominiums.
AnnArbor.com file photo
Prickly Pear opened in the space the following year, beating all odds and proving to naysayers that a small southwestern restaurant could work.
Pearce, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and chef at the Campus Inn at the time, said he used all of his wedding money to open Prickly Pear. His lawyer at the time told him to not do it: The 50-seat restaurant was too small to be viable.
Pearce went ahead and created the popular Mexican/southwest eatery, more than doubling capacity in the summer with outside seating. Over the years, it’s gained a solid following: “When we were in Washington DC recently, we were wearing Prickly Pear T-shirts and a group of about 25 people came up to us to say that was their favorite restaurant,” Pearce said. “When I was in the hospital recently, a doctor came up to me to say we catered her wedding. That’s rewarding.”
And he has longtime employees, including two waitstaff who have been at Prickly Pear from the beginning.
AnnArbor.com file photo
While he doesn’t own the building, he does own the liquor license, all the equipment and the business. If Prickly Pear is nudged out of his space, he said he will find new space. “We make a good living and I like what I’m doing,” Pearce said. “If we have a location change, I don’t think it would be horrible. But I don’t want to move.”
Potential buyers of the building have been given tours and rumors are swirling, Peace said. But, at least for now, he hasn’t been informed of a sale or plans for any changes, he said.
The nearby Middle Kingdom Chinese restaurant also was listed for sale around the same time. AnnArbor.com reported last week that Ann Arbor Main Street Real Estate, LLC closed a deal Tuesday to purchase not only the building at 332 S. Main St. but the business it housed as well.
Janet Miller is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com.