Linwood's Cafe & Grille plans big expansionOne of the...


April 28, 1993|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

Linwood's Cafe & Grille plans big expansion

One of the area's better-known restaurants is expanding, as Linwood's Cafe & Grille nearly doubles its space in the McDonogh Crossroads Office Park in Owings Mills.

The 4,800-square-foot restaurant will add 4,500 square feet, in work scheduled to be done by August. Its owner, Linwood Dame, said the addition will help the cafe expand into Northern Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and compete for suburbanites who would otherwise trek to Little Italy for a fix of fettucini alfredo.

The added space will be so closely tied to the existing restaurant that the addition can share Linwood's liquor license, he said, but separate enough that the Italian dining room will have a different look and name.

"This will give people another place to eat in the county and will cater to a middle market," Mr. Dame said. Linwood's serves a broad menu of regional American food, competing mainly in the upper price range of the local restaurant market.

"We're debating two [names]," he said. "Nothing will resemble Linwood's. We wanted to create a different ambience."

Baltimore Travel Plaza undergoes a face lift

The folks at South Charles Realty Corp. are transforming the Baltimore Travel Plaza -- a just-off-I-95 hotel, gas station, cabaret, Greyhound bus station, restaurant and nightclub complex -- into a respectable, even profitable property.

South Charles has held the O'Donnell Street property since last year. The distressed-assets arm of MNC Financial Inc. bought it at auction from a partnership led by developer Lawrence R. Rachuba, who had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

Since the auction, the complex has changed its name to Best Western Baltimore East, the hotel has switched its affiliation to Best Western and the Roy Rogers has closed. A dinner theater has taken over the cabaret space. And the managers are working on a deal with a Pittsburgh-based tour operator to run themed shows, including Hawaiian theme entertainment, in the now-closed nightclub for the package-tour market, general manager George Guggeis said.

"We anticipate they'll do 4,000 room nights per year," he said. "The objective is to get a two-night stay by packaging it with another night" when tourists can visit the Inner Harbor.

Already, occupancy at the hotel is more than 50 percent, compared with a mid-40 percent range before the change in control, Mr. Guggeis said. The complex is profitable, he added, although working without a mortgage since the foreclosure has made it easier to slide into the black.

He wants to boost occupancy to more than 60 percent in 1994. And he hopes the complex's business will be split evenly among three kinds of customers: tour groups; travelers who leave the interstate for a meal or hotel stay; and business travelers and meetings of companies at the port and the eastern Baltimore metro area.

One plus: a deal reached last week, when the National Veterans' Training Institute agreed to use the complex for a year's worth of seminars to help veterans with matters such as job retraining and benefits.

Building profitability in the Northeast falls

One more measure of the recession's impact on the construction business comes from Dun & Bradstreet Corp. A study shows that construction firm profitability in the Northeast fell more than 40 percent between 1989 and 1991.

The average building construction firm in the Northeast region, which includes Maryland, had a profit margin of 4.6 percent in 1989 and 3 percent in 1991. Heavy construction firms, which build bridges, roads and the like, did worse -- their profitability fell from 4.6 percent to 2.5 percent.

Construction firms in the West were best in maintaining profit margins, the study said. But Dun & Bradstreet warns that the cheery figures from out West don't include data from a record number of firms that closed during the recession.

Alex Cooper to sell Papillon restaurant site

Alex Cooper Auctioneers Inc. will try to sell the 25-acre site of the old Papillon restaurant in Ellicott City on May 18, after the project's lender, South Charles Realty Corp., received permission to sell the land after a delay of nearly two years.

Auctioneer Paul Cooper said the sale, scheduled for 1991, was deferred after the owners filed for bankruptcy protection. The site is at 8880 Frederick Road, at the northeast corner of U.S. 29.

"It has multiple zoning, but they're trying to get . . . residential zoning," Mr. Cooper said. "You're not going to have people go in there and do industrial on a site like that" because of how the surrounding area is developed and because the economy is still hostile to most commercial development.

In other auction news, Alex Cooper will sell the old Gardiner's Furniture store at 9220 Pulaski Highway May 20. Gardiner's president, Greg Mullaney, said the sale was prompted by the chain's move last fall into the old Shaivitz Furniture building on U.S. 40 in Catonsville.

"It was a profitable location," Mr. Mullaney said. "We've made an even trade of a 32,000-square-foot facility for a 115,000-square-foot facility. [And] we felt the growth potential on the other side [of town] was explosive."

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