Closing the doors
After nearly four and a half years of providing homemade Italian dishes, steaks, seafood and fresh-baked desserts, Tuscany Italian Grille on Oakland Road in Spindale closed its doors just over a week ago.
Proprietors Meg and Dino Tsambouniery operated the upscale Italian restaurant and lounge that was honored as Rutherford County's "Best of Italian" for four consecutive years.
"It was a hard decision for us to close, but ultimately that's what we thought was in our best interests despite the fact that we had made attachments in the area with a lot of regular customers," Dino said. "It's pretty much first grade math — for the size of the building that Tuscany was in, the math at the end of the month really wasn't working out for us. We were constantly repairing stuff and had big-time square footage. When you have that amount of square footage, you kind of need to be as busy as we were the first year and a half we were open."
Dino said another major factor in the decision to close the restaurant was so he and Meg could be closer to their children.
"At the end of the day, as much as we love being up in Spindale and Rutherfordton and we feel that we had a good brand and a good following, we live 45 minutes away in Cherryville and were commuting up there all the time," Dino said. "We felt like we really weren't a big enough part of our children's lives over the past five years. Especially right now with our son leaving for college in another three weeks, we took a harder look at that."
Additionally, with the restaurant's lease option quickly approaching Dino and Meg would see increases in rent and expenses for another five-year increment.
"If it was a whole other situation on the overhead, then the math might have worked out," Dino said. "But it came to the point where there was just so much expense incorporated in that location that we didn't feel we could stay."
Dino also explained how the decline in understanding and partnership between the restaurant's property owners and Tuscany's proprietors influenced the decision to close the doors.
"We continue to believe in Rutherford County and in what we have to offer, and we put blood and sweat into the restaurant," Dino said. "But we also felt like the owners of the property and building were no longer partners with us and may have been trying to capitalize on our good name."
Despite the closing of Tuscany Italian Grille, Dino assures that he and Meg are going to be in the restaurant business for a while.
Meg is still interested in providing catering in Rutherford County in the future, for groups of 100 people or more.
"We did what Americans dream about doing. You roll the dice and put your money into something, and it's either make or break," Dino said. "In the worst-case scenario we'd lose it all, but in the best-case scenario we'd do great and help create a bunch of jobs — which is exactly what we did."
Prior to Tuscany's closing, the restaurant's Facebook page was flooded with well wishes, 'miss you's' and requests to keep in touch.
"I can't tell you how many people came out to see us when we made it public that we were closing," Dino said. "We didn't just sneak out of there; we wanted as many people to say goodbye to us through any channel that they could, whether on Facebook or in person."
Dino said he has even had customers offer to buy him a building as well as supporters offer to give him a place for the restaurant with three months free rent.
"I can't even tell you how good that felt. We had a lot of good times there and got to know a lot of good people in the area," Dino said. "It really is bittersweet and we just want to thank everybody for all the support that they've given us through the past four and a half years — we really appreciate it all."