Northampton’s Viva Fresh Pasta closes doors

  • Paul Milani, co-owner of Viva with Christine Buchholz, talks Thursday about his decision to close the restaurant. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Paul Milani, co owner of Viva with Christine Buchholz, talks about the decision to close the restaurant. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Paul Milani, co owner of Viva with Christine Buchholz, talks about the decision to close the restaurant. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Paul Milani, co owner of Viva with Christine Buchholz, talks about the decision to close the restaurant. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A sign on the window of Viva announcing its closing. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Diane Danthony of Northampton talks Thursday about the closing of Viva in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Diane Danthony, of Northampton, talks about the closing of Viva in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Published: 8/9/2019 12:03:06 AM
Modified: 8/9/2019 12:02:56 AM

NORTHAMPTON — In 1986, Paul Milani moved his young Martha’s Vineyard pasta restaurant to Northampton in search of better business opportunities. His gamble played out, and although Milani has changed storefronts, he’s stayed in the city since.

But this week, 34 years after the store’s opening on the small island in 1985, Milani and his business partner, Christine Buchholz, have decided to close Viva Fresh Pasta Co. at 249 Main St.

“Restaurants, like everything else, have a life,” he said.

The closure comes as the third food establishment to shut its doors this month, joining La Fiorentina pastry shop at 25 Armory St. and ConVino Wine Bar at 101 Armory St.

Milani, 73, said that the decision to close was made and executed on Wednesday, though the two owners had considered it for a while. Viva Fresh Pasta, which sold southern European-style dishes and its own fresh, house-made pasta, is no longer accepting business from customers.

Milani said there was no reason for shutting down other than the fact that neither he nor Buchholz was interested in running the place anymore. He said Buchholz, who managed the restaurant, had other plans, and that he was going to tend to his farm in Ashfield and relax on his new boat.

“I’m getting older, and so is Christine. It’s a tough business and it can wear on you,” he said.

He said he’s already heard from customers expressing their sadness about the restaurant’s closure.

“We got the word since we decided to close up yesterday that a lot of people were disappointed. And that’s a compliment,” Milani said.

“Sometimes you get tired of it, and you have to make a decision,” he added.

Rent was not one of the causes of the eatery’s closure, he said, explaining that he had a “great arrangement” with his landlord, though he would not divulge how much his business had been paying. And financially, Milani said the restaurant had a good year last year, though he said it “goes up and down.”

“We had to work harder for it,” he said of his business’ success in 2018. “You have to make a lot of changes you don’t want to make.”

As for his employees, Milani explained that he had to abruptly tell them the place was closing and that he wished he could have given them more time to adjust.

Milani believes there is a trend occurring downtown as many stores and dining establishments are closing. He said he noticed the economy of small businesses booming in the downtown area up until last year.

“There’s not as much foot traffic as there was. If people are not making their numbers, then they’re going to have to either close or lay people off,” he said. “But that’s just business.”

Milani said the economy for the middle class was “not great,” explaining that this might be a reason why people don’t come to Northampton to spend money.

“People aren’t coming into Northampton as much,” he said.

Diane Danthony, of Northampton, said she was disappointed to see another business close in the downtown area.

“It’s a downtown that used to be known for its good restaurants, and it’s unfortunate that they haven’t been able to survive,” she said. “It’s a frightening trend.”

For Tara and Irma Lopez, both from Florence, it’s been about a year since they’ve been to Viva Fresh Pasta. But, like Danthony, they said they were concerned to see stores closing downtown.

Even though Milani and Buchholz are effectively retiring their restaurant, both Lopezes were still concerned for the future of the industry in Northampton.

“That’s still sad though, because there’s not another generation to keep things going,” Irma Lopez said.

Tara Lopez said she hopes downtown Northampton could buck the trend of closing businesses, since her kids love walking around the area.

“It’s not going to be the same for our kids,” she said.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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