Bombers is not only attracting customers but helping its downtown competition to prosper.
Other lunchtime restaurateurs had voiced worries that the popular burrito bar would decimate their business. Now, they’re singing Bombers’ praises.
“Our business has picked up. We get a lot more walk-in business,” said Sandra Coville at Nico’s Pizza, which has become the top second choice for Bombers lunchers. When a line forms out the door at Bombers, workers who have half an hour to eat often head next door to Nico’s, even though they had wanted Mexican fare.
“They come over here — and then they say they like pizza better anyway,” Coville said.
Several hundred customers descend on Bombers during lunch, cashier Sarah Darby said. At first, it was almost too much to handle.
“It was pretty crazy,” Darby said. “It’s definitely gotten a lot more steady since the opening. We get a great lunch rush. Business has been awesome.”
The restaurant had to put its plans for delivery service on hold because it was so busy. Workers reported being so exhausted that managers cut back on hours, closing on Sundays to give everyone a break.
The rest of the week, the restaurant is downtown’s biggest food magnet, according to business owners.
“It’s certainly brought more young people downtown,” said Chez Daisie Creperie owner JoAnne Sifo, who gauges downtown’s success by the number of available street parking spaces. The spots are always filled now, she said, so customers must park in the free lots behind Jay Street.
“That’s good. A lot of times when they come to Bombers, they see Ambition’s, Glassy Beads, Chez Daisie, and I think they’re more inclined to come back.” she said.
Ambition Coffee House and Eatery has enjoyed that attention, drawing in new customers with an entertaining menu board that often advertises more than just food. On one occasion, it promised a war of pushups between various servers. On another occasion, it dared customers to sing.
Jeremy Tyler of Ambition expects that many Bombers customers will try the eatery eventually.
“I think business brings business,” he said. “They’re going to walk down Jay Street, see the other businesses around.”
Business owners admitted that they, too, were curious about the new restaurant. Pizza King owner Jon Camaj ate there shortly after Bombers opened. Although he’s one of the few restaurants open late — and thus in direct competition with Bombers — he had no hard feelings.
“Their wings are good. I don’t have wings,” he said. “Bombers is good. It looks really nice, they draw more people here — it’s good.”
It helps that regular customers stayed loyal even on Bombers’ opening day. Every downtown lunch spot reported that it had not lost any of its regulars — and those customers said they weren’t tempted by a new restaurant.
“Nothing could drag people away from here,” said Pizza King devotee LuAnn Falcon.
Business owners believe Bombers has enticed an entirely new group of customers into eating lunch downtown. In other words, they said, Bombers has significantly expanded the downtown’s customer base. They called it a great success.
“We’re glad they’re here,” Sifo said.