Betty’s Pies branch to close; Two Harbors still going strongSaddened by the news that Betty’s Pies is being evicted from its Mahtomedi, Minn., store, its owner said, some customers have offered to help pay the rent to keep the eatery open.
By: News Tribune staff, McClatchy Newspapers
Saddened by the news that Betty’s Pies is being evicted from its Mahtomedi, Minn., store, its owner said, some customers have offered to help pay the rent to keep the eatery open.
They may not have known the place was more than $280,000 in arrears.
On Wednesday, a Washington County judge signed a motion that will force the Twin Cities branch of the famous North Shore eatery to close on Dec. 31 and vacate its home in the Wedgewood Village Shopping Center.
“It’s a bummer,” said co-owner Martha Sieber. “We have great customers. A couple even wanted to pay off the note.”
Betty’s Pies has been a popular North Shore destination for decades. The original location just north of Two Harbors is still going strong and remains profitable, Sieber said. The Mahtomedi store was its first venture into the Twin Cities metro area. The closing will not affect the Two Harbors location, which will remain open and honor gift certificates that were sold at the Mahtomedi store, Sieber said.
About 25 to 30 employees will be laid off in Mahtomedi, Sieber said.
Bank Mutual took over the shopping center this fall after the owner defaulted on the mortgage, according to bank CEO Michael Crowley Jr.
Crowley couldn’t say how far back Betty’s unpaid rent dates or the amount of monthly rent it was charged.
Sieber, who owns the restaurant with Carl Ehlenz, said the amount claimed by the bank — $281,416.79 — is correct on paper but not according to an agreement between the restaurant and the previous landlord.
“(The previous owners) were not able to fill any other spaces in the development. Obviously, that hurt our traffic. We ended up verbally agreeing to another rent amount,” Sieber said.
Sieber said the lower rent agreement was never put in writing, so the bank is basing its outstanding debt on the original lease agreement.
With the Two Harbors store supporting the Mahtomedi store, Sieber and Ehlenz had already decided to close the store after the holidays. The eviction notice cinched that decision.
Sieber has not ruled out opening another metro-area location, but said she won’t do anything “until the dust settles.”
Betty’s Pies first opened in 1956 as a restaurant and smoked fish stand. Original owner Betty Lessard starting baking simply for something to do. But word spread quickly about her cookies, breads and, of course, pies. Betty retired in the mid-1980s. Sieber and Ehlenz bought the business in 1998.
Last year, plans for a Mall of America location fell through.
Sieber said running the restaurant has been a learning experience. The trials and errors are both part of being in the industry and of running a restaurant in this economy, she said.
“So, it’s tough, but it’s the way it goes,” she said.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this report.