PDT Staff Writer
LaRosa’s in Portsmouth is closing. In an exclusive interview with the Daily Times Thursday, Scott Schmidt, President of Schmidt’s Family Restaurant Group said Wednesday (Nov. 27) will be the last day the Italian franchise will be in operation in Portsmouth. However, Schmidt was quick to add that he has found jobs for all 28 of that restaurant’s employees.
“No one loses their job,” Schmidt said. “Everyone has been placed at either Wendy’s or Buffalo Wild Wings, so that’s the good part about it.”
Schmidt said there were several reasons for closing, but it really came down to one issue.
“Financially, this just wasn’t cutting it,” Schmidt said. “We gave it a little over three years, and it just didn’t catch on.”
Schmidt said, contrary to what many people thought about LaRosa’s, he did not bring it into town as a pizza place, but brought it as a low priced Italian restaurant.
“Sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose some,” Schmidt said. “To my credit it’s the first I ever had to close. I closed in the Ashland Town Center Mall, but that was just because the lease ended.”
Schmidt, whom just over three years ago transitioned the location from ‘The Wharf’ a seafood restaurant to LaRosa’s, said the group was meeting last month to talk about how to proceed.
“I said, ‘I’m not used to doing this’,” Schmidt said. “I don’t know how to close a restaurant. But one thing I’ll guarantee you is that every employee will have a job, and we accomplished that. They have already been placed.”
Schmidt said in the fast food business there is always turnover among employees, and seeing the inevitability of the closing of LaRosa’s coming, through attrition at the other restaurants, he purposely didn’t fill some positions so that there would be jobs for those employees.
“I’m not going to blame it on Obamacare like everyone else wants to, but I will say that was another piece to it, with all that stuff kicking in, it was just another big expense, so that would be like throwing gas on the fire, and we didn’t need more gas to throw on the fire,” Schmidt said. “But Obamacare is not the reason we closed, that’s for sure, but there’s so many other little things that added up to it.”
Schmidt recently expanded his Wendy’s location in Wheelersburg, giving it a totally new wide-open look, an expanded menu, and other touches. He was complimentary of the relationship he has had with the LaRosa family operation.
“They are great people,” Schmidt said. “They are really super people to work with and be partners with. It just wouldn’t catch on. Our Jackson store is doing okay. In Portsmouth, I know the median household income is low, but still, the reason I brought that in was because it was low in price.”
Schmidt acknowledged that his pizza’s were probably more expensive than pizzas at other franchises in the region. He said he often saw cars lined up at other pizza locations because the pizza’s were less expensive.
“We’re going to move on,” Schmidt said. “But we’re still looking to expand in our Buffalo Wild Wings and Wendy’s — probably not in this immediate area — because we’re pretty much tapped out, but we’re always going to take care of the people who work for us, that’s the main, most important thing.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.