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Burger Pointe Closes Leaving Another Vacancy in Village

Rising operating expenses, high rent and low traffic contributed to the closing of the burger, fry and shake restaurant that opened only two years ago. The owner, however, is working to get another vendor in the space he converted only that long ago.

It has been about two weeks since Mark Seeley closed the doors of his popular restaurant in the Village: . The closure happened somewhat quietly, leading to some customers showing up for a meal only to find the doors locked.

Seeley, a Grosse Pointer, made the decision after his worst month since opening--September--strictly from a business standpoint.

He speaks highly of the overall experience of designing, constructing, opening and operating a restaurant. Ultimately he could not continue pouring money into a business that was not yielding a return on his investment, he said.

He loved interacting with customers from behind the counter and loved being "an important part of the Village" and community. He already misses it, he said.

Burger Pointe's closure marks the third business to shutter its doors in a matter of months. although ultimately the Ann Arbor based company ended up declaring bankruptcy. Then as part of going out of business.

One of Seeley's reflections on business echos that of Connie Bukowski from Cavanaugh's: The Village is lacking the foot traffic to support and sustain small businesses.

Without significant retail anchors, the Village offers little reason to reason for Pointers to visit, Seeley said. He noticed a significant drop in business in absence of Borders--a retailer bag he often saw in his own business. Customers often read a magazine while enjoying lunch or dinner, he said.

Unlike Cavanaugh's who lost foot traffic during the closure and new construction of Kroger, Seeley said as a restaurant he was not affected by the grocer's remodeling.

Customers who are in the Village for grocery shopping, he said, are not those who are going to stop in for a meal before or after their shopping.

Weather only further negatively impact foot traffic, Seeley said, noting the hot summer and the especially rainy spring that kept pedestrians at bay.

Foot traffic was not the sole problem however.

The prices for the supplies were continually rising at a pace that Seeley was unable to pass along to the customer, he said, explaining he was most recently paying $75 for a case of tomatoes and had paid $26,000 for shortening for french fries. The average guest check was $7.82, Seeley said.

Selling burgers for $4 a piece was what his customer liked, he said, noting that increasing it by $1.25 would not have gone over well.

Rent was Seeley's only fixed cost and while it was fixed, which made planning a tad easier, he said the amount was ridiculous. Ultimately, he said, he believes he could have converted the same sort of space in Birmingham for less money and had he picked that location, he would not be talking about why he closed.

When he expanded his menu earlier this year, Seeley said that was truly a move to better serve the customer and to give returning clients new options. It was not any sort of move to prevent the closure, he said, noting he was not thinking about closing at that point.

Burger Pointe's closure surfaced in the 's court last week during a hearing in an unrelated case and Judge Russell Ethridge said he was not surprised to see it close considering the number of burgers one would have to sell to pay rent in the Village. He also stated he believed the business plan was flawed from the start.

Village Association President Mike Kramer said any time a store leaves the Village it's sad. He's hopeful the space will not remain vacant for long and that some arrangement will be reached for another restauranteur to move in.

Similar to what happened with the former Cavanaugh's space, Kramer said, noting it's nearly after the invitation specialty store closed.

Meanwhile, Kramer said the Village businesses agree with Seeley's thought about having an anchor store but there is still a need to be wise about what kind. He believes a housewares and accessory store, such as Crate and Barrel or Sur Le Table, would be a great fit for the Village and the community.

Seeley does not have any immediate business plans and said the decision to close was tough but an eight or nine week absence from the restaurant leading up the closure helped bring clarity to the situation, he said, noting he had knee surgery.

He is working with the landlord, who has been very supportive and helpful during the closure to find a vendor to come in and take over the lease, Seeley said. He could not divulge much information but said there were two companies with whom he is talking.

Seeley is hopeful an arrangment will be finalized in a few more weeks.

Meanwhile, construction on another locally owned future restaurant, Green Zone Pizza, is underway in the Village. Work has been ongoing for months on the space that will houe the pizzeria with an organic ingredient and gluten-free focus. Seeley believes the new pizzeria will be a nice addition to the Village and wishes the owner well.

According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, approximately eight percent of all food service workers in the U.S. are self-employed. The outlook for for the food service industry is positive and showing predictions of growth in the coming years.

While concrete restaurant failure rates are hard to nail down and apparently often grossly overinflated, the National Restaurant Association published a Chef's Survey: What's Hot in 2011. Among other things, locally grown and organic ingredients and gluten-free products are in the top 10 of the list.

Christine Keating October 24, 2011 at 11:59 AM
We LOVED Burger Pointe...my husband was a fan of the burgers, I loved the veggie burger (one of the best around) and my son often requested the french fries. We are so sad to see it close. It made an easy night out for our family and then to go next door to TCBY was an extra treat. :(
Laura Hetzler October 24, 2011 at 12:03 PM
Nooooooooo!!!! Lost a great family spot with reasonable prices and really good food, gain another empty store front in the Village and who comes out ahead?? No one.
domo domo October 24, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Very sad. The village needs a hotel to bring in foot traffic, business people on expense reports, etc. My relatives would love to stay in a hotel when they visit but there is nothing in the area.
Brian Vosburg October 24, 2011 at 01:27 PM
A hotel is an idea that's come up several times and there have even been some studies on it showing a boutique hotel would be a viable business, especially if it was marketed in conjunction with the local hospitals. However the idea gets a cold reception when it's proposed to elected officials.
Lyn October 24, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Let's not forget how badly Cullen Meathe was treated by the City when he wanted to purchase and develop the Jacobsons building. Thankfully he prevailed and we now have TJ's and some of the other businesses there. The old guard around here wants only their own fingers in the pie. I would love to see a small hotel, but I think the inbreeding is this community prevents it. Let's hope that our elected officials with do what is right for the City and not just for their own egos and pocketbooks.
Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey October 24, 2011 at 03:52 PM
My family is definitely sad to see Burger Pointe go, as well. Domo and Lyn, sometimes it's stunning to me that the Pointes don't even have a boutique hotel or a B&B. It seems like it would be a natural fit.
Bubba October 24, 2011 at 10:08 PM
I completely agree the Burger Pointe business plan was flawed from the start. The product wasn't anything special and his execution was amateurish.
Mark Van Osdol October 25, 2011 at 03:20 AM
Bubba I don't agree, I can't speak to his business plan but I thought Burger Pointe had great food and leveraged social media to do some effective marketing. I'm glad to see that Seeley didn't throw out a bunch of blame for his closing, and he's probably right that the Borders closing hurt. However I don't agree with his statement that he would have been fine in Birmingham. Sure he may have more traffic from Woodward or Maple or whatever, but also that much higher rent and other issues--it's not like retailers over there are raking in profits. As I recall a burger place called @burger in Ann Arbor closed last summer after being open only 11 months, meanwhile a Five Guys that recently opened near there is seemingly doing fine, so who knows. Regarding a hotel, it's ridiculous that we don't have one. Business travelers who need access to Detroit would love it Monday-Friday and visiting relatives would fill it on weekends. There are exactly zero respectable/decent hotels on the east side between downtown and say, Roseville or Warren. Absurd.
Brian Vosburg October 25, 2011 at 01:24 PM
I think Burger Pointe could have raised its prices a bit and not really impacted it's business. Our family could eat at Burger Pointe for the same price as McDonald's after using a discount or coupon there (which were always easy to find). The food was definately better than McDonald's and I would have paid accordingly. It is sad to see it go and our family will miss it.
Becky October 26, 2011 at 01:55 AM
The food was terrible so I'm not surprised it closed down.
Mark Seeley October 26, 2011 at 03:02 AM
I would like to thank the people and families that supported me and my family while Burger Pointe was open, Apparently we did please everyone Becky and Bubba for example but thats the restaurant business. All we can do is do the best we can by offering a quality product at a good price and hope that our service is enough to bring you back. Its not an easy task but I tried my hardest to do that. So again thank you for those customers that believed in me and my family for the support these past few years. Mark Seeley Burger Pointe!
Elizabeth M. Vogel October 26, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Dear Mark, Thank you for believing in the Pointes and having a business in the Village. When I think back to when you opened up Burger Pointe it was the first time i felt confident again that the economy was getting better--that there really was hope. I think you did more than just serve burgers, you gave Pointers a reason to smile again. I wish you the best of luck in any future endeavors. And I'll miss those 'pucks'! They were my favorite. Best, Liz
Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey October 26, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Thank you, Mark. I also must say, the preppy-themed bathroom was super cool. The Burger Pointe will be missed.
domo domo October 27, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Thanks Mark! Myself and my children enjoyed the food, especially the mahi mahi burgers and shakes. We will miss Burger Pointe.
dave bourgeois October 28, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Bummer.. Quizno's closed in GPW also.
Robin V November 03, 2011 at 04:52 PM
We were dismayed to see Burger Pointe had closed also, Mark's always been very friendly (total stranger to me!) and it was just nice to go someplace quick for a good burger. In fact I did that last Friday and learned it was closed. My family and I will miss the restaurant. As a local accountant I've heard time and time again that rent in the Village is unaffordable. And I also agree we need a hotel, there were so many times before I had my current home that my parents had to stay miles away in hotel because there is no place around here, and recently neighbors w/ a baby had to do the same when we were days w/o power. City Councils are you listening?
cuttingedgegrrl January 24, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Has anyone been hearing that Mark(the owner) may be bringing Burger Pointe back soon? I keep hearing this and I hope this is true! His restaurant had such amazing food and was a solid concept that we all should support if he comes back. Even in the face of all of the businesses closing (Gap, Blockbuster is almost imminent, Borders for ex.) and I am hearing Hannah Bear may be next, if he has faith in the village and is willing to resurrect his restaurant to serve us all, that is a huge message to the community who may be losing faith in the Village and the Village association and the landlords that control the rent and determine the mix of businesses we all have access to or not. I hope all parties involved in supporting Burger Pointe's potential comeback, will see it as such! We can't afford to lose a business that did so much for our community and was so willing to reinvest in so many local businesses/schools and non-profits. I for one will promise to support Burger Pointe by finding several reasons to visit a week if I get another chance to eat one of his superb burgers and top-notch milkshakes!
Paul Seeley February 03, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Hope Burger Pointe comes to Birmingham, Five Guys needs some competetion. It is always good to see a Seeley doing business and doing well. Paul Seeley
K & R March 25, 2012 at 03:42 PM
My friend and I would like to support the re-opening of burger pointe. She's had much family history in the business as her grandpa responsible for the Ronald McDonald house and McDonald. Mark it's worth a chat to discuss your business plan and how we could learn from the past while supporting the community and many nearby metro detroiters who have quietly eganto move into the downtown area lofts, condos and Indian villiage homes from relocations all over the world. I often referred them to you. Both my friend and I who now owns in the community have corporate / customer service / entrepreneur backgrounds and we are moms who are prepared to invest and work hard. Should you be interested feel free to contact us at 313-822-9518. Burger pointe has not seen its last days! Sometimes we never really miss or realize the importance of supporting a great thing until its taken a leave of absence. K & R

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