The Mecca, a diner with more than 75 years of plating greasy eggs and bacon, closed on Sunday after a tumultuous and short run at its location on Live Oak Street in East Dallas. The Mecca had been having financial difficulties since it moved from its long-time location on Harry Hines in the fall of 2012.
"I've put everything I had into The Mecca," says Sealy, who purchased the popular Dallas diner in 2007. Then the DART green line cut through the neighborhood and long standing restaurants started coming undone. The Mecca was one of the last to fall, but any sadness about the closure was overrun with great enthusiasm about the new location.
The old location primarily served breakfast, but the new restaurant would serve three squares a day, and Sealy hoped the increased business would help offset his new $15,500 monthly rent bill.
"We started off with a real bang," says Sealy, who admits his staff was not at all prepared for the response they received. An overwhelmed kitchen and wait staff delivered sloppy plates and poor service. Still, the problems smoothed out and it appeared that The Mecca might settle in for another few decades.
"Sales were great," Sealy says, but then last spring sales began to decline. And then last July they slowed down a lot.
Sealy did what research he knew how to do to check into his revenue problem. He checked the comment cards left at the door and penned in a book by the register. He made the rounds through the dining room to talk to diners in person. The food and service was fine, according to his customers. The problem, in Sealy's eyes, was the economy. "People aren't eating out enough," he says.
Last summer, Sealy tried to get out by selling the business, but everyone that expressed interest in the business said the rent was too high. Then, in January, he started a catering business to pad his sales.
Sealy says his catering efforts were successful in their own right, but they were too late to save the restaurant. This March he was unable to pay his rent, so he filed for bankruptcy, and as of this weekend, East Dallas is short one diner.
The restaurant's website says the closure precedes another relocation, but a subsequent opening could be a long time coming. Sealy is auctioning off the entirety of his furniture and kitchen equipment -- all those old tables and chairs shipped from the Harry Hines location are gone. He's also considering new locations that are far outside of Dallas, so he doesn't run into the same rent problem. Greenville, Tyler and Mt. Pleasant are a few of the towns Sealy is considering.
"One way or another I'm going to keep the business alive," says Sealy. He's keeping the catering business going, in order to keep the brand breathing, but it doesn't look like The Mecca will ever live in Dallas again.