Stadium Village’s Pita Pit closes doors

A hidden location and too many sandwich competitors caused low sales and closure.

Even though the sign still hangs above the door, the only Pita Pit in Minnesota filled its last order and closed its doors two weeks ago.

The restaurant, located behind Subway in the Stadium Village Mall, opened in 2005 and served made-to-order sandwiches in pita bread pockets. The restaurant’s awkward location, however, led to its eventual demise, some people in the area have said.

The restaurant had been experiencing problems for the past few months, Justin Zavadil, owner of Stadium Village Mall, said.

“They weren’t getting as many customers as they were hoping for,” he said. “This created problems for them when paying the rent.”

Zavadil, who also co-owns Stub & Herbs Drinking and Dining Emporium, said he had to put the Pita Pit’s owners in default for not paying the rent. He said when someone owns a business, the first bill they pay each month is rent – if a place can’t do that, they’re having serious problems.

The positioning of the restaurant was a problem for the business, Zavadil said, adding he’d “inherited” the bad location when he purchased the building in 2006, but, he said, he’s partly to blame for keeping the restaurant in its location.

“The concept was good and the food was good, but the location was bad,” he said.

Next time Zavadil said he’ll lease the space to a tenant who knows the challenges of the location. However, he currently has no plans for the space.

Although full-service restaurant jobs have increased 0.7 percent in the past year, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the limited-service eating industry, which includes fast-food restaurants, has seen jobs decrease 1.2 percent during the same time.

Jerry Anderson, manager of the Stadium Village Subway, said Pita Pit might have done better in a different location on campus. He said Subway’s on-the-street location helps the business attract passersby and added that Pita Pit may have done better had it been visible from the street as well.

“A lot of our business depends on foot traffic since there’s not a lot of parking around here,” Anderson said.

Subway hasn’t seen an influx in the number of customers since the closure of its neighboring tenant, at least not yet, he said.

The close proximity of Milio’s Sandwiches, Erbert & Gerbert’s and Subway also made it difficult to compete for business, Anderson said, adding that he didn’t think Pita Pit advertised its location enough to get customers past Subway.

The restaurant’s visibility was also a problem for some students.

Art sophomore Anne Herold said despite working and living in the neighborhood, she’d never been to the Pita Pit and didn’t know it was closed.

“I have a coupon from them in the mail that I was saving, but I guess it’s too late to use it now,” she said.

There are 148 Pita Pits in the United States, targeting mostly college campuses, according to the company’s Web site. Pita Pit’s corporate office didn’t respond to the Daily’s repeated requests for comment.