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LTE: Son of Owners of Anthony’s Restaurants Speaks Out

Ted Yiannarakis says he hopes city doesn’t lose sight of the importance of community and small businesses.

I am thankful for this opportunity to write this editorial amidst all of the recent coverage regarding the future of Anthony’s Restaurant in Falls Church.

As the son of Anthony and Faye, I would first like to say that I think my parents are remarkable people.  While my parents have seen their fair share of struggles in the restaurant business, I will always be proud of who my parents are and the way that they've served the Falls Church community for decades.  

Anthony’s is an informal community center and has been for forty years. To the thousands of families who support and love Anthony's, you are so greatly appreciated. I cannot begin to tell you how many wonderful people I've had the opportunity to meet over the years. To our employees, you are truly irreplaceable.  All of you are the unsung heroes who make the restaurant work smoothly each and every day.  It has been an honor to work side by side with you.  Both our loyal customers and our amazing employees have helped Anthony’s to become the historical institution and ongoing community asset that it is today.

As many of you know, the Falls Church City Council gave a final and unanimous vote in favor of selling the city’s land at Monday night’s meeting for the future construction of a Harris Teeter grocery store with additional commercial space and residential units as well. While some might argue that progress is good, I hope that no one loses sight of the importance of community and family-owned businesses in defining the character of our city.

With our lease expiring in the spring, I'd like to address the issue of relocating as I see it. Relocating is complicated because the available space in the immediate area is extremely expensive to rent, hence the closure of so many small businesses, especially restaurants. The cost of doing business has escalated and regulations are a significant burden as well. Macroeconomic challenges also have added to the problem.  Good credit history alone is insufficient to deem it fiscally wise to relocate, as the economic realities force many small business owners to close, which again changes the personal character of the City of Falls Church. These realities are crucial ones to take into consideration. 

At Monday night’s meeting, it was incredible to hear that almost 2,000 people had signed the petition that began circulating this past Thursday. The petition does not call for a halt of the mixed-use project, but rather, urges the City to weigh in to genuinely assist Anthony’s efforts to stay in business in Falls Church. 

It was humbling to see how many customers attended the meeting and spoke heartwarming words, validating that Anthony’s is indeed an informal community center for Falls Church families, seniors, sports teams, community organizations, and the community at large.   

The City Council members continue to assure us that they will try to help Anthony’s find comparable new space, and they encouraged the developers to have conversations with us about the possibility of using part of their commercial space once the new development is built. Regardless of whether the city takes an active role in pursuing new space options, or in maintaining a channel of communication between us and the developers focused on a mutually beneficial plan that allows us to stay and do business here, I will forever be grateful for the relationships that have been established over the many years. 

It has been such an honor to serve this community.  It has been an honor to be a part of the little league game parties and to watch those children grow into adulthood.  It has been a privilege to host all types of events, and to know the names of almost all of the patrons who have graced our doors.  Mom and Dad, I strive to always follow the example that you have set for me and for the community, for the kindness you have shown to the elderly and the young alike.  Your generosity and integrity is without reproach, and there are no two people on Earth like you.

I believe that the City Council still has the ability, and in some respects, the responsibility, to represent the wants and needs of the majority of the citizens on this issue. 

I hope that the message that was delivered on Monday night by its members is true: that this is not a matter of choosing between development or Anthony’s, but rather, an ongoing conversation about what terms realistically allow the City of Falls Church to maintain its community character and allow development and family-owned businesses to coexist and succeed.  Remember, it is the citizens who helped build this city and give it the character and values that the families who live here cherish.

Now, only time will tell.  Regardless of how this story plays out for The Little City, for my family, and for the thousands of customers who have graced our restaurant’s doors, I will be forever appreciative for being a part of Anthony’s Restaurant. 


Respectfully,
Ted Yiannarakis

Andy Rankin October 24, 2012 at 02:58 PM
This is a very nice piece by Ted - I appreciate his perspective. I'm sure the City staff will do everything they can to help Anthony's - but I get the sense that the ultimate help they need is somehow securing space at below market rental rates. I can think of only two ways to do that. One would be to somehow directly subsidize Anthony's rent using tax dollars. The other would be to ask the developers of the new project to provide space to Anthony's at a discounted rate. This is like the arrangement between Pearson Square and the Creative Cauldron art space... but of course in that case the tenant is a non-profit organization. The other problem with this plan is that there will be a 2 year gap (or so) between tearing down the existing building and having the new building ready to occupy - I'm not sure what Anthony's would do during that time. This is definitely a tricky issue and I hope there is a positive resolution. I would ask people to consider two things when they think about the City's responsibility to assist Anthony's. First, Anthony's, while a community treasure, is a private business. If the City provides special assistance to them we should consider what other businesses might qualify for help. Second, Anthony's landlord is also a business in the City. If Anthony's is paying below market rents then at some point it seems reasonable for the landlord make changes to increase his return on investment.
Eric Jeffrey October 24, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Andy, your points are well taken, but let me add a couple of additional points. It would seem to me that the best hope would be for the city to assist Anthony's in pairing with a landlord in a situation where they could both win. For example, ignoring the two-year gap, it may well be that the developer would benefit from having Anthony's as part of its project -- a restaurant so close with reasonable prices would seem to be something that would seem to add value to the project. Thus, lower than pure market rates might be justified based on the other benefits to the developer. This might also be true in another location as well. Second, it seems to me that Falls Church City ought to keep in mind what kind of place it wishes to be. While adding such a project improves the tax base, from my perspective the development that has gone on in the past years reduces the character of the City. Whatever this may mean for a specific business, I think this needs to be taken into account.

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