Amherst Burger Co. to close, reopen under new ownership in new year

Amherst Burger Co. owner Barry Roberts, left, with Tony Ferrari, the ice cream and burger restaurant’s new chef/manager. The restaurant will close Tuesday, with plans to reopen in the new year under new ownership.

Amherst Burger Co. owner Barry Roberts, left, with Tony Ferrari, the ice cream and burger restaurant’s new chef/manager. The restaurant will close Tuesday, with plans to reopen in the new year under new ownership. AMHERST DOWNTOWN BID

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 11-20-2023 5:42 PM

AMHERST — A burger and ice cream restaurant opened last spring by an Amherst developer in a downtown building he owns is closing this week, a casualty of lacking an owner with expertise in the hospitality industry and reflecting challenges facing businesses, including having enough staff, said Gabrielle Gould, executive diirector of the Amherst Business Improvement District.

Amherst Burger Co., at 104 North Pleasant St., will serve its last meals on Tuesday, with the restaurant likely remaining closed through the end of the year, but then reopening as it is retooled under new ownership.

“It’s heartbreaking to lose Amherst Burger,” said Gould, adding that the business was a concept of Barry Roberts. “He really wanted to create something local and family friendly.”

Since opening last spring, the restaurant, which uses grass-fed beef from Echodale Farm in Easthampton and ice cream from Flayvors of Cook Farm in Hadley, has faced obstacles, though, including on occasion running out of food. Over the summer, a manager with extensive expertise in the hospitality industry was hired in an effort to stabilize the business.

But Gould said issues persisted. “It’s never had the owner a restaurant needs, a really passionate person with a vision,” Gould said.

The exact timing for when Amherst Burger Co., or some version of it, returns will depend on the transition to the new owner, who will be required to transfer the various permits, such as the alcohol license.

“It’s a rebrand with a little bit of rebuild,” Gould said.

Amherst remains, with a 97% occupancy rate of its storefronts, a good place to do business, Gould said, and restaurants are continuing to open. Just this month, Royal Chicken & Kebab at 1A Boltwood Walk and Taqueria del Pueblo at 31 Boltwood Walk opened.

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Others are likely to open soon, including the return of DP Dough at 18 North Pleasant St., in space below The Drake performance venue and next to the White Lion, a nanobrewery that also features a test kitchen, and Lau Tu Hong restaurant at 61 Main St.

While the Greenfield Savings Bank downtown branch, located in the same block as Amherst Burger Co., recently closed, Gould said a new business will take over that spot in the coming weeks. Another vacancy, where Hastings was located on South Pleasant Street, will become an Amherst College store next year.

Part of the problem for all businesses is the waning post-pandemic support, Gould said. As COVID vaccines rolled out and people were comfortable going out, there was excitement to go back to restaurants and shop.

With Black Friday this week followed by Small Business Saturday, Gould said it’s a chance for people to shop at that Botanica or Mary Moore Design, rather than a national chain on Route 9 or an online retailer.

She hopes that will make a difference. “Who we support today is who’s going to be here in 2024,” Gould said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.