MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. (WIAT) — Within the next few weeks a restaurant that started out small, but quickly became a national success, will be returning to Crestline Village — with its original menu items and owners.
Zoes Kitchen, founded by John Cassimus and named for his mother, began in 1995 as a small restaurant in Homewood. Cassimus eventually decided to sell the majority of the company, which resulted in about 300 restaurants being built nationwide.
But during one of the first board meetings after the sell, Cassimus said he remembered someone suggesting bringing in a chef out of California to change the menu.
“I knew at that point that it was never ever going to quite be the same… and so that was pretty painful,” Cassimus said. “When you built something that was so great and then when you leave, the margins go down every quarter until ultimately the company [has] basically failed. It’s really a sad thing to watch.”
The Cassimus family looked on helplessly for years as they watched the original recipes fall off the menu. Eventually, business slowed and the restaurant’s parent company, Cava, decided to shut down all of the locations.
In a situation that most would see as a failure, John Cassimus saw an opportunity. He worked out a deal to resurrect and rebuild the original Zoes Kitchen.
“In theory, we are competition,” Cassimus said. “But they do own the brand, and want to see the brand stay alive, for this community and our family, so that is really a testament to the quality of people that we are dealing with.”
Zoe Cassimus, co-founder and the brain behind the menu, is excited about bringing the restaurant back to the area for good.
“The demand is out there. I’ve had people for the last 15 or 20 years asking, ‘Where is the rice, where is the slaw?’” Zoe Cassimus said. “It’s a blessing and just a gift. I worked every day for 11 years in the original Zoes, so I’ve missed it, and happy to be coming back.”
An exact opening date for the restaurant has not yet been announced, but you can monitor their Instagram page and stay with CBS 42 online and on air for the latest updates on the return of Zoes Kitchen.