It was an offer too good to refuse: As part of his ambitious neighborhood development project Operation Light Switch, Alan Glazen was offering up an existing Collinwood restaurant for zero down and zero rent for six months.
"I don't want to start my project by closing down one of the few things there," Glazen explained at the time of the news.
Well, the winner of that restaurant lottery is Mary Kean, a Tremont resident who hopes to open Chloe's Kitchen and Diner in three weeks. She will be taking over the long-running Fotina's Restaurant (400 E. 156th St., 216-692-1375), which closed last week after approximately 30 years. The owners no longer had any interest in running it.
"Yes, it's very nice," says Kean about the terms of the deal.
Kean left a long career in the electronics industry, saying that she no longer had a passion for it like she does for the restaurant business. She has also worked for years in fine dining.
"Mary brings 15 years of hospitality experience to the table, including Lola, Parallax and Velvet Tango Room," Glazen explains. "She's true inner-city neighborhood woman who loves Waterloo. She understands the scene and is excited to contribute to our project."
Fotina's was a small, plain and modest diner serving breakfast and lunch, and that's exactly how it will stay, explains the new owner.
"I'll do a little bit of sprucing up, but I want to keep it as it is as much as possible," she says. "I want to keep it a kitschy, old-school diner."
She'll add WiFi, incorporate an all-day $2.99 breakfast special (two eggs, sausage or bacon, hash browns and toast), and serve up fresh, quality versions of standard diner fare like hot dogs, burgers, Reubens, grilled turkey sandwiches and tuna salad.
"It will be simple, but I'm a stickler for quality," she notes. "I will use as little frozen stuff as possible."
Glazen has made it clear that the arrangement is not necessarily permanent, and Kean is keen on that fact as well.
"We'll renegotiate after the six months," she says. "We'll see if it's working for both of us. Of course, we want it to be successful. The exciting part of the project is that we're trying to help revitalize this neighborhood."