Frank Curtiss stands in front of his restaurant

Frankie’s, other businesses closing to make way for new hotel

As work continues in downtown Redmond to turn the neighborhood into one of the city's two urban centers, there have been a number of new businesses and restaurants that have opened in the area.

As work continues in downtown Redmond to turn the neighborhood into one of the city’s two urban centers, there have been a number of new businesses and restaurants that have opened in the area.

But progress doesn’t always just mean in with the new. It also sometimes means out with the old.

And despite its longtime standing in the community, Frankie’s Pizza and Pasta at 16630 Redmond Way in downtown has fallen victim to the latter as it will close its doors permanently on Oct. 15. Their final day of normal operations will be Oct. 12 and they will take reservations for Oct. 13-15 and hold a party the final day.

The restaurant, as well as the other businesses in the same plaza and the businesses in an adjacent plaza, will close next month to make way for a six-story hotel scheduled to open around fall 2018. Some of the remaining businesses in these complexes include a Chinese restaurant, two nail salons, burrito joint and consignment shop.

Since it opened its doors on April 15, 1993, Frankie’s has served multiple generations of Redmond residents and their families.

Owner Frank Curtiss said in their 23 and a half years of business, he has seen a lot happen, from kids growing up to, unfortunately, customers passing away. He said they have been made to feel part of the community.

“That’s been a real honor,” Curtiss said.

WHAT’S NEXT

At 62, neither he nor his wife Rhonda (also 62) would have chosen to retire from the restaurant business, but that is what is in store for the couple. But Curtiss said they will not be fully retired as they plan to teach cooking classes and he plans to lead a tour group to Italy next year.

Curtiss said his son Chris and daughter-in-law Sandra, who have been involved with the restaurant since its early days, will be opening a gourmet nachos food truck called Nacho Mama’s.

Curtiss said they learned that their landlord had sold their building to a developer in April. With all of the construction going on in downtown, it was not unexpected.

“We knew it was coming,” he said.

Once they knew their building’s fate, Curtiss said they faced two difficult decisions — whether to try and relocate and what to do for their employees, some of whom had been with them going on 15-20 years.

“That was the hard part of the decision,” he said.

Curtiss said many of their staff have stayed at the restaurant since they learned about the closing and they plan to pay bonuses to those who stick it out until the end. Despite this, he said he doesn’t think the bonus has been an incentive to the employees — they are just loyal.

In addition, Curtiss said he has had former employees coming in to visit and even picking up shifts to help as Frankie’s has become very busy since news of its closure became public. Curtiss said they have had customers coming in at 2-3 times the rate they normally do.

“We’re going out with a high note,” Curtiss said, adding that the nearby road construction has not affected business either. “Normally, this much roadwork would be bad for business.”

BUSINESSES TO BE MISSED

Frankie’s customers are not the only ones who are sad about the closure.

Diana Perez, who works at S Diego’s So Cal Burrito across the parking lot, said when customers learned they will be closing, they have asked and begged them not to.

“It’s awesome,” she said about the customers’ reactions to their restaurant.

S Diego’s opened in November 2015 and will close Oct. 24.

Perez said the owners would like to relocate and stay downtown but noted that the high rents for space make it difficult to do so.

Laura Kulinski, a downtown resident who learned about S Diego’s closure on Tuesday, is not happy about the news.

“That really sucks,” she said.

Kulinski said she typically stops by the restaurant once a week but like some of the customers at Frankie’s who are dining there more frequently, she plans to go in more until S Diego’s closes.

“This is my go to,” she said, as she lives within walking distance.

While Kulinski’s family have dined at and enjoyed Frankie’s for several years, she admits that she has not eaten there. She said she may have to go there now, but is hesitant because “what if it’s amazing?”

For Thuy Pham, whose brother owns Rio Nails and Spa in the same strip as S Diego’s, the news that their building will be torn down was a disappointing blow to her family.

This is the first time they have owned a business, which they took over in January, only to learn in June that they would have to close their business. Like S Diego’s, Rio will close in October.

Pham said after investing a lot of money into the business, her family does not have much money to start over again. She said they would like to stay in Redmond as they have been working to build a customer base, but like the owners of S Diego’s, the cost of rents in town will make it difficult.

“We don’t know where we’re going right now,” said Pham, who is currently going to school and is doing her best to scout out locations when she can. “We want to stay in Redmond.”

MAKING WAY FOR PROGRESS

The hotel planned for the location does not have an official name yet but City of Redmond staff refer to it as the Anderson Park Hotel, referring to the nearby park.

Gary Lee, a planner for the city, said the developer is still going through the permitting process and they are not sure when demolition or construction on the site will be yet.

He said the planned hotel will have 177 rooms. There will be about 3,000 square feet of conference room facilities and an outdoor deck facing Redmond Way on the second floor. In addition, Lee said the hotel will have an internal cafe and underground parking garage.

Jill Smith, an economic development manager for Redmond, said the city currently has five hotels and there are six in the works that are planned to open in the next few years. These hotels will double the city’s current capacity.

With his business closing due to development, Curtiss has mixed feelings about what is happening downtown. He said he is not thrilled by some of the architecture that has been popping up, but noted that some of the buildings in downtown are really old. There are two sides of the coin, he said.

While Curtiss sees both of those sides, he said about nine out of 10 of their customers are not happy and that the closing of Frankie’s is the “last straw.”

He said it may be the dramatic speed that the development is happening that is bothering people.

As a downtown resident, Kulinski said right now, there is a lot of noise and clutter in the neighborhood due to the construction. This makes it difficult to get around, but she understands the end goal.

“It’ll be nice,” she said about how things will be once construction is complete.

Kulinski added that another unfortunate result of the development is seeing small businesses, started by nice people, close.

Curtiss added that a lot of the new restaurants coming in are more on the trendy side, rather than being more family oriented, which is what the community could use more of with Frankie’s closing. However, Curtiss said he understands that there are a lot of new young professionals moving in, which explains the new businesses.

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