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Cafe in Amsterdam's Riverfront Center closes doors

Cafe in Amsterdam's Riverfront Center closes doors

Pam Shelly, owner of PJ’s Cafe, said she has met a lot of nice people in her two years at the Riverf

Pam Shelly, owner of PJ’s Cafe, said she has met a lot of nice people in her two years at the Riverfront Center, just not enough of them.

PJ’s Cafe, which served breakfast and lunch, closed Friday .

Shelly said the decision was difficult, but she didn’t see the business turning around and she hasn’t made a profit since opening in March 2008.

Shelly, of Mayfield, said her dream job turned into all work and no paycheck. She also had a hard time keeping part-time help, which turned into a hassle. She often had to work on weekends, ordering food and cleaning the kitchen.

She said the breaking point was realizing she wouldn’t be able to go out with her daughter on Mother’s Day.

The biggest problem is Shelly relies on the professionals who work in the Riverfront Center’s offices to fuel her business and, she said, there aren’t enough of them. She doesn’t see any other foot traffic in the mall.

“No one is coming down here,” she said.

The Riverfront Center, a former urban mall, was built during Urban Renewal in the 1970s. It was a thriving downtown retail center for about 10 years until retail outlets along the expanding Route 30 corridor in the town of Amsterdam started competing.

Now the former urban mall has transitioned from retail to office spaces. Most of the tenants now are in the medical field, including 15 physicians and a chemotherapy and dialysis center.

Shelly tried to bring people in off the street with signs at the corner of East Main and Market Streets, but to no avail.

“It’s just dead down here,” she said.

Other retailers report an easier time in the Riverfront Center.

Sue Reese, an employee at the Sofa Warehouse, one of the few retail businesses in the Riverfront Center, said business isn’t bad.

The company, which sells couches, coffee and end tables, bedroom furniture and mattresses, has leased the open space on the second level of the Riverfront Center for the past two years.

The company is pleased with its location, Reese said, which isn’t competing for customers along Route 30, but still has a visible presence.

Reese said the warmer weather makes business slow as more people want to be outside, but she was busy during the winter when more people wanted to be indoors.

Riverfront Center lease manager Peter Capobianco said he is pleased with the mall’s activity. Despite the fact that it no longer caters to retail businesses, about 1,000 people a day walk through the Riverfront Center, including those office workers and people passing through.

Capobianco said he has “strong interest” from an already established eatery in town that wants to create a satellite location where PJ’s was. Capobianco couldn’t say which restaurant was interested, but he said it already delivers food to people working at the mall.

Ernesto Morales has owned a jewelry store in the Riverfront Center for 20 years. He said his business is already established so people know where to find him. He enjoys the ample parking for his customers and likes the office workers who stop by his store after work or on lunch breaks.

“People are always asking why I don’t move to Route 30, but I think that would be like starting over,” he said.

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