MENTOR, Ohio — If you live in Mentor, you've likely driven by Gramma Sue's and wondered why the restaurant has yet to open. Right now, the owner is working hard not to close before serving a single meal.
"It gets depressing," said Sue Marotta.
Gramma Sue's is her dream, but it's turned into a nightmare.
It is supposed to be a 1950s style diner serving classic American food with a Sicilian flare, she says.
For almost four years, Marotta says she has been paying rent, never missing a month, but also never making a dime. The restaurant of her dreams has yet to open. Now, they’re facing financial issues. Four years of rent plus no revenue has burned a hole in her pocket, and so have bad contractors, she says.
The place on Center Street used to be a photography business. Renovations to make it a restaurant have been expensive and time-consuming. She says she paid contractors upfront in full for work that was never finished but is declining to pursue legal action.
"We didn't sign a legal contract with the contractors," she said. "We just did a verbal agreement because they were sort of like friends. That won't happen again. They took advantage."
She told News 5 she owes several thousand dollars to two different parties that she hired while trying to get the restaurant launched and is working to get them repaid.
Marotta says she is doing it alone. She says her husband's health is failing and this was to be her security net. She wants to show him and herself that she did it.
"I told her I'd help her build a little bar in there," said Jason Salvatore, owner of Dynamite Dawgs just down the way.
Like many in Mentor, he, too, wondered when Gramma Sue's was going to open. He says as a small business owner himself, he knows how hard it can be and is trying to help.
"I saw an older lady struggling, and I didn't want to see that happen," said Salvatore. "I want her to succeed."
So does the city, says the public information officer for the city of Mentor. They say Marotta has all the permits, and they wish her well in getting open.
Outstanding line-items include electrical and plumbing in the kitchen and finishing the dining room. Then, pass an inspection by the health department and get cooking for mostly take-out with limited seating inside until they can expand parking, according to city rules.
"It's my passion," said Marotta. "It's my passion to serve the community, and everybody's waiting for us to get open... I get all choked up."
Marotta says her goal is to open it by her birthday in May.
After our interview with Marotta, she reached out to say she is now also trying to find a new location for Gramma Sue's in Mentor that is already a restaurant so they could start cooking and serving food right away.
She has started a fundraiser. Click here to learn more.
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