RENSSELAER — The Arby’s restaurant along South College Avenue closed this week after company officials said business was lacking after the closure of St. Joseph’s College.
The city’s other Arby’s location, at Highway 114 and Interstate 65, will remain open.
“At this point, it is closed,” said John Wade, president and chief executive officer of AES Restaurant Group, which owns both locations in Rensselaer. “We’re kind of taking a ‘wait and see’ (stance) to see what will happen with (SJC). If it reopens, we will obviously remodel and reopen.”
Wade said the restaurant’s sales took “quite a big hit” when the college suspended operations in 2017.
“We are waiting to see if something’s going to happen there,” he said. “We own the land and building, so we will continue to hold onto it until we determine what’s going to happen to it.”
He went on to say that, if the college does not reopen, then the company will probably not retain the property. If the college does reopen, he said the company will “definitely reopen and remodel the restaurant,” and that the company would be “ready to go” as soon as the college’s reopening is announced.
“We’ve taken the steps to get ready to remodel,” Wade said, “meaning we’ve already spent money on the architecture plans. We’re in the process of doing that right now.”
Wade said another reason for the closure is that the company had reached the end of its licensing agreement with Arby’s.
“We had to either close the restaurant or remodel the restaurant,” he said. “We weren’t ready to make that investment into remodeling that restaurant until we knew what happened with St. Joe.”
He insisted the main cause was the closure of the college and not a direct result of the fatal stabbing of employee Jared Valentine, which took place last year. He did, however, acknowledge the “tragic” incident and said it did temporarily affect business at the restaurant.
“Obviously it had an impact short-term,” Wade said. “We had a sales impact, of course. That was to be expected.”
He said the restaurant did eventually return to previous levels experienced during the time between the college’s closure and the fatal stabbing.
Nevertheless, the closure of the restaurant came as a surprise to many in the community since it was not previously announced.
Wade said none of the employees were forced out of a job since the company offered to transfer them to the other location.
“We gave all of our employees jobs, and we just moved them across town to the other store,” he said. “So nobody lost their job. Everybody was given an opportunity to continue to work for us. As far as I know, we have not had anybody quit. Everybody stayed on board.”