[Editor's Note: An earlier version of the story had an incorrect closing date. The last day for the Lake Worth PA BBQ is Tuesday, September 3, 2013.]
In a move he attributes to economic downturn and a building needing significant repairs, PA BBQ owner Dean Lavallee announced to staff Monday he’d be closing the Lake Worth store.
“Actually, it’s a combination of things all coming together,” he said. “A reaction to the slowdown in the economy, an aging building that needs to be rebuilt or have a lot of money put into it, and someone offered me a good price for the property.”
The Dixie Highway fixture is a profitable store among the nine he owns, with a loyal customer base, but he said this is a business decision. “I was emotionally attached to the original store in Lake Park, and held on to it long past the time I should have closed it. This time, I’m making a decision based on business. This is through no fault of the customer or employees. It’s got a loyal following, and it does make money, but sometimes you have to trim the limbs to save the tree.”
An offer for purchase was too tempting to ignore, he said. “I don’t know exactly what they are – not food service, but I’m guessing an auto parts or phone store, maybe, that will make money there.”
He said he looked around for a suitable and more functional building in the same market as a replacement, but can’t find one. “I looked at Friendly’s over on Congress in Palm Springs, but it’s not feasible for what we’re planning. We are exploring adding patios to the other stores, and it wouldn’t work for us.”
Lavallee bought the building, a failing Denny’s, in 1991 and brought his version of barbecued ribs and chicken to Lake Worth. It’s remained a family favorite since, though the demographics of the area have changed since then – going downhill, he said. “It’s unfortunate, but that corridor of Dixie Highway to Forest Hill is just not coming up, he said.” An IHOP a few blocks north, another family draw for decades, also left the area.
His stores in Tequesta and West Palm Beach both have come out of the recession; the new outlet mall going in on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard is going to boost that store’s presence even more, he said.
“It’s going to be hard to look at loyal customers and say ‘bye – sorry, but we have to close.’ But we’re not the Post Office. We have to make money. It’s a business decision.”
He’s confident PA fans will head for the Boynton store on Hypoluxo, or the West Palm Beach store on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. He hopes to place Lake Worth employees in jobs at the other eight stores where possible.
Until closing, the Lake Worth store will offer specials and welcome long-time customers for last meals here. The store is set for its last service Tuesday, September 3.