by Ian McNulty
And the hits just keep on coming. Yesterday, J'Anita's restaurant on Magazine Street closed for good, taking a very welcoming, casual café, a good breakfast spot and an excellent red fish sandwich out of rotation.
In a November article about how local restaurateurs were coping with economic anxieties, J'Anita's co-owner Craig Giesecke (pictured with wife Kim) said business at his inexpensive restaurant was on the rise, perhaps as customers sought more affordable options for their dining dollars.
February was the restaurant's best month of business, he said today, but looking ahead he felt the prospects were gloomy, especially with the seasonal doldrums of a New Orleans summer on the horizon.
"The only big event in town between now and summer is Jazz Fest, and it just became clear I couldn't garner enough cash to slide through the summer," Giesecke says. "We decided to close now while we have money to pay people and assets to sell."
J'Anita's opened late in 2007 and grew out of a bootstrap post-Katrina business plan. Giesecke previously ran a specialty smoked cheese business in Mid-City, which was ruined by the levee failures. But he still had an intact mobile barbecue smoker, and he and his family members positioned it along the Canal Boulevard neutral ground to sell lunch to work crews in Lakeview, which had scant options for hot food at the time. Their experience led to J'Anita's.
Giesecke says he'll try to pick up some catering gigs using that same barbecue trailer while he's looking for a new job.