The owners said they were ready to retire after pandemic-related staffing shortages made running their restaurant more difficult.
PORTLAND, Ore. — After 35 unforgettable years, Chez José on Terwilliger Boulevard in southwest Portland will close on Oct. 8, the Mexican restaurant announced last week.
“Kindly splitting the family up like this was just a really heartbreaking decision for us to make,” co-owner Howie Schechter said.
Schechter said the tough decision was influenced by two things: retirement and staffing issues. Like many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way they do things, which has had a direct impact on business.
“We were only open for takeout for a while, then we were able to open inside, then we had to close inside,” Schechter said.
They have gone from 35 employees before the pandemic to 17 now.
RELATED: Oregon’s second Shake Shack is coming to downtown Portland
“We’ve survived much longer than others and I think it’s thanks to our customers and our employees,” said co-owner Tom Midrano.
Since their closing announcement, they have been inundated with voicemails, messages and comments on social media.
Many of their kitchen teams have worked for Schechter and Midrano for decades. Jose Antonio Leon has been working in the kitchen for over 26 years and Martina Reyes for 16.
“We are sad because we have worked for the owners for a long time and for us it is like a second home,” said Leon.
“But like the great co-pilots that we have been from inside the kitchen, we will accompany our captain until the last day,” Martina said. “And we’ll wait for them to close and then we’ll start looking for another job.”
RELATED: New Portland Restaurant Makes New York Times 50 Best in America List
The owners are helping their kitchen staff find jobs elsewhere, and Leon already has an interview later this week.
“It’s been a wild ride, but we’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished. Our customer base is amazing. Our employees are amazing and we wish we could have continued,” Midrano said.
“The gratitude and appreciation we have is beyond words,” Schechter said.
Schechter and Midrano have said they would like to sell the restaurant to a new owner who can run it, but there has been no interest so far.