Moe’s Southwest Grill closed its Blue Back Square location after dinner on May 5.
By Ronni Newton
A lined formed on the sidewalk even before the 11 a.m. opening of Moe’s Southwest Grill on Thursday, with those who knew that “Cinco de Moe’s” would be the restaurant’s last day in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square anxious to get that one last burrito at a spot that had become a longtime staple for many families and teens.
“We’re closed. It was our last day,” said Matt Rusconi, who has opened the area’s first Moe’s at 54 Memorial Rd. in Blue Back Square in 2008 with co-franchise owner Dave Vorchheimer. “Dave and I appreciate the support we have gotten over the last eight years.”
The support from the community, and the crowd on Thursday, was a great way to go out but made the closing even more bittersweet, Rusconi said.
Numerous would-be customers, who were not yet aware of the closing, walked in Friday around noon only to do a double-take when they saw the interior emptied out.
Rusconi said Friday that he and Vorchheimer are looking all over to find the next location for Moe’s in West Hartford. “Starwood had a new home for us but it would have been too small. We would lose 20 seats,” he said of the space a few doors down on Memorial Road which had been offered.
The business is leaving Blue Square on good terms, Rusconi said. “They did what they legally could do. They tried to make amends,” he said.
“Blue Back Square presented Moe’s with an alternate location. Unfortunately it didn’t work out on their end,” Starwood Marketing Director Elizabeth Zigmont said. “They’re a favorite here and we were trying our best to make them stay.”
Rusconi was very grateful for the help of Lippincott Movers who came in right at 9 p.m. after the restaurant closed on Thursday, and helped move out all of the furnishings. Nearly everything will be able to be reused in the Moe’s location set to open at exit 38 off I-91 in Windsor this July, although Rusconi said it’s not that the West Hartford location has moved to Windsor because that opening was already in the works.
All of Moe’s West Hartford employees have been taken care of, and offered jobs in other locations. Rusconi and Vorchheimer currently own 14 stores (Windsor will be number 15), including the Mooyah in West Hartford and Newington, and the Moe’s and Mooyah in Storrs Center. Their closest Moe’s is now the one at State House Square in Hartford.
As for what’s next, Rusconi is resolved to find another workable location in West Hartford. “We’ve been looking all over West Hartford to figure out the best case. When we build again, we want to make sure it’s right,” he said. There have been rumors of new locations, but Rusconi said that although he’s talking to people and the Moe’s brand, nothing is set.
“We’ll pick up right where we left off with hopes for a good future. Believe me, we’re looking every day,” said Rusconi. He knows that many area organizations – sports teams, schools, the YMCA – looked to Moe’s for help with fundraisers, and he never said no. It has been a model for community involvement.
Rusconi said that one of the toughest things about closing the West Hartford Moe’s is the emotional connection because it was the first store that he and Vorchheimer opened. At the time it was only the third Moe’s in the state, and few even knew the brand before the Blue Back Square location opened.
“We’re part of the community. We’re going to come back,” Rusconi said.
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