House of Pizza last business standing in Richmond Road strip mall expropriated for LRT.

10 01 2019

Blair Crawford, Ottawa Citizen

For 23 years, Gabriel Khater has come to work at his House of Pizza at 747 Richmond Road.

Seven days a week — 11 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, 11 to 2 a.m. on weekends.

“I feel like I could close my eyes and run the store,” Khater said as he slices up a fresh-from-the-oven pie in his pizzeria, the last business left open in the once thriving strip mall.

In a few years, train tracks will run through this mall near the corner of Richmond and Cleary Avenue, which has been expropriated by the city as it prepares for Phase 2 of the LRT system. The mall will be the site of the train’s Cleary Station.

Tenants have known for a year that they’ll have to go, but it hasn’t made the goodbyes any easier.

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“It’s sad,” Khater said. “I’ve watched everybody leaving and I’m used to seeing them every day.”

Khater and his wife Nadine, who works alongside him every day but goes home after the suppertime rush, are relocating to a new location at 160 Richmond Rd., near Kirkwood. They hope their faithful customers will follow them there, but for some, like those in the adjacent condo tower, The Continental, the move will be an inconvenience.

“One woman was so sad,” Kahter said. “She said we were so convenient. She could just phone in the order and walk down to get it. Now she’ll have to drive.”

Next door at Nokham Thai Restaurant, Bouasonephet Bouasy-Jung and her father, Bouanokham Bouasy, were clearing out the family-run restaurant they’ve run for nearly 20 years. The glassware and cutlery was boxed. The ornately carved golden pediment that once graced its entrance had been removed and stood beside the stacked tables and chairs.

Nokham served its last meals Sunday night to, as always, a packed house.

“It’s like a second home here,” Bouasonephet, who said she spent 50 to 60 hours a week at the restaurant, often behind the scenes bookkeeping and ordering food. “Actually it’s probably more like a first home because of all the time we spent here.”

There’s no new home for Nokham. It’s closing for good. Bouanokham is going to spend time with his two grandchildren and travelling; Bouasonephet says she’s just going to take it easy for awhile.

“Our customers told us they’re going to miss us. That they loved the food,” she said. “They’ve been asking me, ‘Where’s the next best place to go for Thai food?’ Of course, I don’t know. I don’t go out for Thai,” she said, with a laugh.

The restaurant had been told the mall was closing last September, but the deadline was extended, Bouasonephet said. More recently, the city told them they could stay until the end of February, but the family decided it wasn’t worth it.

“If it had been a few more months, then maybe, but for just a few more weeks? No,” she said.

The Warsaw Deli permanently closed on Dec. 31, the same day Mother Earth natural health closed its storefront (though it still has an online store.) Treasures Anew consignment shop packed up its Royal Doulton china, vintage watches and other curios from your grandmother’s house, and moved last year to a new location at 1390 Clyde Ave., near Merivale.

The city says it has yet to receive a request for a demolition permit for the mall.

Back at House of Pizza, Gabriel Khater keeps answering phone calls, spinning dough and dishing on the toppings. The renovations are going slowly at the new location — he estimates it’s about 50 per cent complete — so he’s asked the city if House of Pizza can keep going where it is for a little longer. It may be lonely at 747 Richmond, he said, but it’s still busy.

bcrawford@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/getBAC


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