Big changes are coming soon for two Charlotte restaurants, one in Myers Park and the other in Plaza-Midwood, according to plans announced by the owner Tuesday.
Alesha Stegemeyer, who recently married and changed her name from Alesha sin Vanata, is closing Comida, the high-style Mexican restaurant she opened in the former location of the Penguin in Plaza-Midwood.
She’s also closing littleSpoon, her popular breakfast and lunch spot on Selwyn Avenue in Myers Park – but not for long.
Here’s how Stegemeyer explained it to The Observer: She is closing Comida, which struggled to find an audience in Plaza-Midwood with a higher-priced, fine-dining version of Mexican food. But she’ll move Comida, staff and all, to littleSpoon, allowing her to essentially operate two restaurants in one space.
To do that, though, she’ll have to close littleSpoon, probably Dec. 31, for a month, to do a facelift in the dining room, add to the bar to accommodate the mezcal and other cocktails that go along with Comida, and make a few changes in the kitchen. She hopes the changes will only take a month, allowing a refreshed space with two restaurants to open at the end of January.
“When we reopen, it will feel like a brand new restaurant,” she says. She’ll have two staffs and two menus in a space with only one rent, allowing her to also do more with training the staff, she says: “It’s a win/win for me.”
Meanwhile, Stegemeyer still owns the Comida space, which went through a full makeover when she opened two years ago, transforming the locally loved but rundown space that had been the Penguin. She doesn’t expect the space to be empty for long.
“There’s a lot of interest,” she said, calling the current Comida “a turn-key space.”
“My phone has been blowing up,” she said. “We want to lease that space. It’s a beautiful space. Ultimately, we’ll find the right fit for it. It won’t be too long.”
Stegemeyer admits that Comida has struggled to find a following in Plaza-Midwood, where many customers were used to paying lower prices for Mexican food that was more familiar. The customers who were the most loyal, she says, were also the ones who love littleSpoon.
“This is business,” she said. “You pick your battles. I believe in the concept (of Comida), I believe in what we’re doing. It’s about meeting guest expectations and we were not going to (in Plaza-Midwood) We’re not refried beans and Tex-Mex. There’s a time and a place for those things, but it’s not us.”
Stegemeyer said the two-restaurants-in-one concept is starting to happen in other cities, where rents are even higher than they are in Charlotte.
“The current restaurant model is failing,” she said. “It’s not just us. No one’s getting rich or making a ton of money. Labor’s gone up, food costs have gone up, rents are going up. And yet the willingness of guests to pay, the numbers just haven’t aligned. This is an amazing way to give littleSpoon a leg up when it comes to revenue. This is beneficial for both concepts.”