Roxy Restaurant owners Shahram and Shaja Naimi
It blew up on Facebook this week: Encinitas’ longtime Roxy Restaurant is closing March 31st. Customers are calling with their condolences, the owners receive hugs from people passing by…
But, “It’s not true,” said co-owner Shaja Naimi.
517 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas
Opened in 1978, the Mediterranean-style vegetarian restaurant downtown on Coast Highway 101 is going through a remodel. “I’ve taken on another partner,” said Naimi. “I'll still be actively involved as a consulting partner.”
Naimi said he thinks things started to change when Whole Foods went in a few years ago. Located only a block away, it wasn’t that Whole Foods was much competition but that the high-end grocery store started attracting a new type of crowd to Encinitas.
The downtown Encinitas vibe has changed, with several mom-and-pop businesses forced out by higher rents. Naimi’s rent is now above $10,000 a month.
Naimi said he sees younger people walking by, looking inside, and not coming in, perhaps judging the wood siding and ocean mural interior as too old. Yelp reviews may say the food is great but the restaurant needs an upgrade, or the new crowd doesn’t really trust that Roxy’s nine-page menu is all truly “fresh” meals, but, Naimi said, “We still make everything fresh, right here….
“After 38 years, I’m so much a part of this community, I really hesitate when having to raise prices even five cents on one item,” Naimi added. “We have a lot of loyal customers. But we’re not gaining any new customers.”
He had one longtime customer call him on March 24 after hearing the rumor. She said she has loved the restaurant for years. Naimi asked her how often she comes in to eat. About once a month, she said. “That’s not enough to support a mom-and-pop restaurant,” said Naimi, especially with several new restaurants that have opened up along Coast Highway 101 recently.
Fortunately, the Naimi brothers also own three Roxy concession stands at the Del Mar Fairgrounds open anytime there is an event, including the fair. “It’s what has kept us going,” said Naimi.
Naimi wanted to assure his regulars that once remodeled — although there will be a new chef and a tweaked menu — customers will still be able to order their most popular items: falafel burgers, and artichoke sandwiches.