Two long-vacant restaurant spaces in the Exchange in downtown Glendale are set to have new tenants this year, including one long-standing Brand Boulevard restaurant that’s moving to a new home, while a third is making a go in a space that has seen multiple eateries close in recent years.
Goucho Village, which has been on Brand for 14 years, is slated to move into the former La Cubana restaurant at 135 N. Maryland Avenue, according to owner Kevin Aksacki.
Across the street, Five Star Cinema has leased the former Tony Roma’s space to add a second restaurant to its complex, which includes the former Mann 10 Theatre multiplex, said Armen Mkrtchian, chief executive of Five Star.
The La Cubana space has been empty for more than a year, and Tony Roma’s has been vacant for almost two years.
When Five Star opened, it took over space that formerly housed Salo-Salo Grill, which sat vacant for a long time in the Exchange, which straddles the 100 block of Maryland Avenue and has six storefronts on Brand.
In making his move, Aksacki said he has been at his current location on North Brand Boulevard for 10 years and, while he's found success there, foot traffic has never been what he'd hoped. Prior to that, the restaurant operated on South Brand Boulevard where the Frida restaurant in the Americana at Brand currently sits.
“(We're) going to an area where there are a lot more people going by, and I think that's going to help the business,” he said.
Goucho Village will continue to have everything it has now, including a hookah patio, but with a larger bar/lounge and an emphasis on entertainment on Thursdays and the weekends.
Aksacki will have a smaller outdoor dining area at the new location — about 60 seats, down from the roughly 100 which he has now — but said the new location will bring in more customers, which will build on his existing loyal customer base.
“We're a destination restaurant,” Aksacki said, adding that people come from throughout the Los Angeles area to dine at Goucho Village.
At Five Star Cinema, Mkrtchian said he plans to open an “American-style” restaurant with pizzas, a sports bar and “TVs all around.”
He said the other restaurant, called Frame 128, is more high end. The new establishment will attract customers looking for a more low-key eating experience.
“This will be a separate venue, separate menu. Everything will be separate,” he said.
It will feature around 32 to 36 seats for outdoor dining facing Maryland, he added.
Like Frame 128, patrons will be able to order food from the new restaurant while sitting in the theaters.
On a smaller scale, a restaurant called My Café recently opened in a small space tucked away in the middle of the Exchange that’s not had a good track record.
Since the end of 2011, three other restaurants — the Lunchbox Cafe, Iguanas Ranas and La Cocina Sabrosa — have opened in the 800-square-foot space, only to fold.
My Café’s owners are banking on finding success by serving fresh, healthy sandwiches, a wide variety of menu items, including shawarma, local delivery via a bicycle and, in the future, paninis, said Joey Sogomonyan, who co-owns My Café with his sister, Ayarpi.
Along with the new restaurants, city officials hope projects in the pipeline near the Exchange will bring new life to the retail complex, said Phil Lanzafame, the city’s officer for economic development and asset management.
To the north of the Exchange, the Laemmle Lofts project, with a theatre complex and commercial space on the ground level and apartments above, is moving forward after sitting in limbo because state officials did away with redevelopment agencies, to which the Laemmle project was tied.
To the south, the Museum of Neon Art is under construction and the Central Library’s entrance is being realigned toward Harvard Street, closer to Maryland Avenue.
“The Exchange really is in the heart of the art and entertainment district,” Lanzafame said, adding that it is zoned to attract entertainment-type businesses such as clubs and music venues.
Also, as the many apartment complexes under construction come online, more residents will likely be stepping up the night life in downtown Glendale.
Lanzafame said city officials hope that new restaurants and entertainment venues “will create some excitement with the population that’s living in downtown.”
Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam.