After nearly a quarter century of serving up Mexican food, the Rio Cafe will close March 19.
Owner Julie Hemeon said she was getting out of the restaurant business to enjoy time with her family and explore new opportunities.
“I’m happy,” she said. “I’m not sad at all about this. I just turned 50 this year, and I’ve worked here 22 years, almost half my life.”
Sara Chacon opened the Rio Cafe 23 years ago. Hemeon started working there within six months of the opening, and 10 years ago bought the restaurant from Chacon. Five years ago, she added the Rio Cantina next door, which she said has been even more successful than the restaurant.
While she has enjoyed the customers, Hemeon said it has been stressful running a restaurant, and more competitive with the proliferation of breweries and other restaurants.
“My lease was up, and I don’t have the energy to move it or make it smaller,” Hemeon said. “There’s a lot of competition. I think there’s been 14 new restaurants since I’ve took over.”
With a new grandchild and a son in his senior year at Astoria High School, Hemeon said she is ready to spend some time with her family and enjoy having the weekend off, maybe putting out a cookbook of recipes from the Rio Cafe sometime in the future. A fourth-generation Astorian, Hemeon said she has no plans of leaving town. Even with several job offers, Hemeon said she isn’t looking for a new position immediately. Her husband, Josh Hemeon, is a contractor.
On March 19, the Rio Cafe will hold a closing party, during which some of the restaurant’s memorable tchotchkes — a Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” cardboard cutout, a cowbell, flags, Day of the Dead paraphernalia and a taco suit included — will be auctioned off.
The equipment from the Rio Cafe is up for sale on Craigslist, offering a prospective buyer a turn-key restaurant space Julie Hemeon said has the support of the building’s owner.