February 3, 2011 | Short Order
Zarela Looks to Relocate Downtown with Customer-Owned Restaurant

         Clearly devastated by rent demands forcing the closing of Zarela’s after 23 years, Zarela Martinez is looking downtown. She is hoping to harness the loyalty of long time customers to put their money where their mouth is and finance a customer-owed restaurant.

         She plans to invite potential investors to a party in her townhouse soon to explain the project and get them to sign letters of intent.

         For investors, the place would have elements of a private club and they could request various perks. “Like one man wants to be the maitre d’ for the night,” she said. Several regulars have asked that the new place have a small room for private parties. She cited P.J. Clark’s as a successful investor-owner spot.

         In the 70’s, 53 fans from the theater, Seventh avenue and Time Inc. put up $62,000 to help finance Pearl’s on West 149 West 48th Street. Designer Donald Brooks bought a share, and so did film director Sidney Lumet, but the majority of the proxies were held by backers from the Luce books. “No one expected to make money,” then Life managing editor Ralph Graves observed. “We thought we’d have fun and good food. But it turned out to be the best investment I ever made.” In three years backers had recovered their stake.

         At the first and only stockholders’ meeting, Ralph Graves once told me, it was moved (but never seconded) that the house stop giving free drinks to stockholders. There didn’t seem to be any other pressing business so stockholder’s meetings were abandoned for an annual Chinese New Year’s lunch. Gastronomic excellence at Pearl’s new niche was quickly pronounced by the Times powerful mouth, Craig Claiborne, and the ultimate kiss of chic was delivered the day Mike Nichols brought Jacqueline Kennedy to nibble at lemon chicken. Click here to read more.

         Obviously, you can’t finance a kiosk for $62,000 these days. Martinez says she will refinance her house.

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