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Earlier this afternoon, a Friend of Unfair Park shot us this brief, cryptic message: "Brotha's fried chicken on Gaston is gone ... There is no God." Spent the better part of the day trying to track down my childhood pal Jimmy Kazanas, co-owner of the chicken shack on Gaston Ave., to confirm; no luck, not even with his mom. Alas, Teresa Gubbins shares the bad news, courtesy Jimmy's bro and partner Steve: "Most of our clientele is in the lower income brackets, and with this economy, those are the people who are hit the hardest." Sure -- along with the locals who thought Brothers the best fried chicken in town. --Robert Wilonsky
Update at 5:13 p.m.: Just spoke with Jimmy, and after the jump he explains what went wrong (hint: back taxes) and sneak-peeks at the possible future of Brothers Chicken. He also offers the slightest glimmer of hope that all's not yet lost.
Jimmy reiterates his brother's assessment, which is: "Most of our customers are making $30,000 a year, if that, and these days, 75 percent of them are cooking at home." Business has been on the steady decline for the past six months. Just got behind on rent and taxes. It was either close up or go broke.
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"We've been at this a little over nine years," says Jimmy, whose mother was also in on the business. "And it's a shame. But when you're losing your ass and digging a hole, you gotta put your shovel down. My whole family's like, 'What's the point?' ... We can't afford to have a dollar-menu deal like McDonald's."
Franchising was once an option, he says -- only, you need the dough to find investors. They'd like to find a new spot in which to re-open, only to find the perfect location -- enough room for parking, something with a drive-thru -- rent'll be higher than it is now. Maybe in a year or so, after places sit empty long enough, something reasonable will open up.
Jimmy, who's also in the telecommunications business, is willing to wait it out. More than likely, if Brothers manages to return sooner than that, it'll be in some kind of a partnership with a bar: "We'll just serve the chicken out of there," he says.
Still, this hope: The brothers are "crunching the numbers" to see if, just maybe, they can get the doors back open on Gaston Avenue. It's a long shot, and the doors have already been shuttered for a week. "But in another week or so, we'll know for sure what's going to happen," he says. "We may reopen." Probably not, sure, been keep an eye out -- nose too. If not, "we'll regroup in the next year." Till then, alternatives are welcome -- and don't say Bubba's.