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January 24. 2014 10:45PM

Merrimack eatery being forced to close over landlord's move


The owners of Ida Mae’s Sandwich Shop on Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack have been told to move out by the end of February. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/Union Leader Correspondent)

MERRIMACK — The future of a historic building along the Daniel Webster Highway remains uncertain, as the owners of Ida Mae’s Sandwich Shop have been told to move out before March 1.

“We are crushed,” said Karen Slez, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Brian. “Our landlord decided not to renew our lease, and we are kind of in a bit of shock.”

Ida Mae’s opened its doors at 600 Daniel Webster Highway nearly three years ago after Ruthie’s Restaurant closed shop after 28 years in business. Before that, the building served as Merrimack’s first post office.

The property, according to assessment records on file with the town, is still owned by Ruth Robertson, who operated Ruthie’s until it closed in early 2011.

“We have been told that she doesn’t want to lease it anymore, and ultimately probably wants to sell the property,” Slez said. “We were actually planning on buying the building after six years in operation — so in about three more years.”

According to Slez, the owner has already sold her home in Manchester and has moved to Florida.

“Maybe she just doesn’t want to be a landlord anymore. Still, I would hate to see the building torn down,” Slez said. “It was just starting to turn around for us.”Ida Mae’s, which is open daily for breakfast and lunch, is known for its homemade soups and sandwiches. In addition to handcut french fries and fried pickles, the deli also has a famous Texas roadhouse burger and sausage gravy and biscuit dish that keeps customers coming back.The Slezs first opened Ida Mae’s in Seabrook 11 years ago. In February 2011, they decided to open a second location in Merrimack, and began leasing the former Ruthie’s Restaurant.

They were notified on Jan. 10 that the owner did not intend to renew their lease, which expires next month.

“We are going to try to fight this. We gave our papers to an attorney to see if we have any recourse,” Slez said. “We are still going to try to keep our Merrimack location. We just need to find out if we have a leg to stand on.”

For now, Slez said she was forced to tell her eight employees to begin searching for new work.

“We are going to keep our hearts open to finding something,” she said, noting there really aren’t any appropriate sites available in Merrimack where the restaurant could relocate.Brian and Karen Slez wrote a farewell letter to their customers, some of whom have been frequenting the establishment for 30 years since Ruthie’s opened in 1983.“It is hard to say goodbye,” said Karen Slez.

The restaurant will remain open until Feb. 28, and will continue serving home cooked food in its cozy hometown venue, she added.

Robertson could not be reached for comment.

khoughton@newstote.com



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