Isabella’s Cafe Closes

In response to an inquiry on Twitter from @DatelineDecatur, Isabella’s Cafe confirms that they have closed their doors after close to 2 years in business.

It’s true – we had a great run and are bowing out. We can’t say thanks enough to Decatur for all the support!

Photo courtesy of Yelp

47 thoughts on “Isabella’s Cafe Closes”

  1. sad to hear–only went there once but we enjoyed it.

    unfortunately their closing aligns with Julian’s Theorem: “Any restaurant that runs two Scout Mob coupons within four months has less than six months left in its existence.”

      1. Being in the restaurant business my entire adult life, it is a hard thing to not only open a business but to keep it going, esp. with all of the “coupon” deals out there. The margins are so low anyway, that it’s very difficult to make a profit without having to keep your menu prices in line to make up for all of the “freebies”.
        Scoutmobbers are not loyal customers. They are “coupon” hoppers as well as Yelpers. In my experience, you barely stand a chance to survive after a SM hurricane. I recently closed a business that was definitely affected in a negative manner by the coupon faze.
        I personally do not use coupons. I pay full price when I dine out. It helps the enitire restaurant industry. If you can’t afford to eat out, eat at home.

        1. Do you always pay full price for everything? Because if you don’t pay full price, you shouldn’t buy it at all, right?

        2. I think that if the restaurant decides to put out coupons of any kind (scoutmob, savvy shopper Decatur, etc), it should be prepared for people to actually use them. If they knew that it would bring them to their knees and basically go under, perhaps they should think twice about several things: 1) whether they really want to go with any coupon at all, or 2) make sure the terms of the coupon allows them to not go under.

          Being a user of scoutmob coupons myself, if a place served food that impresses me to the extent that I would come back without a coupon, I would come back (as I have done with places such as Sonny’s place and Garlic- both execellent restaurants). Scoutmob, for better and/or worse encourages people to give particular restaurants a shot. If the restaurants succeed in impressing the customer, business will get better.

          I have plenty of friends in the restaurant business- especially of Chinese restaurants, which generally serve inexpensive food compared to most places we see around Decatur- and yes, it’s really hard. But they can do well without the coupons, so long as their food is good. If a business is pretty certain that it can’t do well without the coupons, perhaps it’s time to close instead of delaying the inevitable.

        3. Maybe there are simply far too many restaurants. I see restaurants open all the time that make me wonder “what were they thinking?” I think a lot of people want to be in business for themselves and fail to truly consider whether there is a need or desire for what they are prepared to offer. Oh, and to address the comment about coupons: if only people who can truly “afford” to eat out did so, there would definitely be far fewer restaurants.

        4. T. Shea, I think that’s a sweeping generalization about Scout Mobbers, speaking as one. And inaccurate. I use the coupons cheerfully. I don’t post on Yelp. I don’t even read Yelp, as I don’t want to crowd source my restaurant recommendations.
          Special promotions are not a new marketing scheme. BOGO, early bird specials, Happy Hour, these are all venerated ways to attract new business and nudge returning customers. I think coupons are no different than these other devices.
          If you tell me that Scout Mob misrepresents the the results a business can expect, then Ill be sympathetic. Til then, it’s a marketing tool, and I’ll happily take advantage of it as a new or returning customer.

  2. sorry to hear – I have all the respect in the world for people who open up restaraunts – it is a big risk and can be both rewarding and stressfull usually at the same time. I wonder what “concept” would work in that space, seems to have hit homeruns with avellinos, ale yeah, not sure how the salon is doing. Anyone have any ideas?

  3. Ate there once and enjoyed it. Sorry to hear the news. Just too many choices in Decatur. I also see that Rocket 88 (formerly Johnny’s Pizza) looks abandoned. (I was in a moving car, so I could be wrong). Does anyone know that to be true?

    1. I had a delicious sandwich and some Sweet Potato Tots there 2 weeks ago, but even then, the place seemed pretty dead on a Saturday afternoon.

  4. Like others commenting here, ate there once and really enjoyed it. I think perhaps their prices might have been a little too high for a lot of repeat business. I agree it’s unfortunate. It was a unique restaurant for the city.

  5. Perhaps Ale Yeah can take over the space, open a tasting counter. We could call such a place a “bar.”

  6. Ate there once and was not impressed at all. Lack good atmosphere, overpriced food and felt like the owner wanted to own a restaurant but had no idea how to run a restaurant. Even using the ScoutMob it was a disappointment. Surprised it last as long as two years.

    There are just to many good restaurants with good atmosphere in Decatur for me to waste my money or time on mediocre ones.

    1. +1

      I really have to agree and have never understood why some people thought it was so good. Apparently not enough people, however.

    2. What is with folks wanting to get in their parting jabs whenever a restaurant closes? Is there a satisfaction that comes with piling on to an already unfortunate situation?

      These folks had a dream, poured their money and efforts into pursuing it, and for whatever reason, have closed their doors on what’s been a huge part of their lives. Why not be respectfully silent if you can’t add to a fond farewell?

      1. These kind of comments may just help the next person who wants to tread the deep dark waters of restaurant ownership. If my business fails, I’ll take all the free input I can get and do with it what I want…some will be accepted, some rejected, and some will make me stronger.

        For what it’s worth, we ate there a few times. I always enjoyed my meals and thought the place was right-priced for what I received. I wasn’t a fan of the space, especially early on. At first, things were even more spread out and the amibience did not help the overall experience of going out to eat. Once they hung the curtain and kept the smaller room, it became a bit cozier but somehow it was still missing a little something for me. We would have gone back if they had stayed open longer and for the record we never used a Scoutmob at this location.

  7. We ate there TWICE (does that mean we win something?) but it didn’t leave much of an impression. I admired what they were trying to do (not many places try to bring in a South African influence), but it didn’t feel like they pulled it off. So you ended up with a somewhat scattershot menu and similarly inconsistent execution.

    To Deanne: You can call them parting jabs if you like, but I prefer to think of it as a post mortem. Yes, seeing someone’s dream collapse is sad. But it’s also a business, and trying to dissect why that business failed can be instructive to others, perhaps helping them avoid the same pitfalls.

    A lot of the restaurants that have closed around here lately or are in imminent danger of closing strike me as folks who could have been greatly helped by being more savvy about what kind of business will work in our community and what won’t. It’s not enough just to have a dream. You have to put that dream in context.

    1. I think Lump is right, and hope post mortem comments are helpful to people trying to understand what works in our market.

      I was excited to have another walkable restaurant choice but thought the food was not a match for the price. We walked away from a meal there thinking we would try it again but that we hadn’t gotten good enough food to justify that pricing; and we just never went back. Perhaps rent on that space made the mark up necessary but there are too many other choices nearby where the food (and cost ratio) is better.

    2. We’re very different folks. To me it’s like dancing on a grave. “All for the greater good” at the expense of those who’ve experienced a loss.

      1. I don’t know, I think if people can come on here and say “what a great place, I don’t understand why they are closing. What a shame.” Then other people can explain why, at least in their opinion, they did not go there and patronize the business.

        1. Yeah… I realize my view doesn’t seem to be widely held… At least you’re not framing it as “being helpful.” I can appreciate that.

          1. No offense or grave dancing intended. We own a small business; our ears are always open for information about the market. Maybe I’m naive to think our opinions as customers could be helpful for people trying to understand what works in our market (the landlord, potential tenants, the people at the city who market Decatur to businesses, Isabella’s if they are thinking of trying again in OA). I don’t understand how that is offensive on this board and wouldn’t agree that our only purpose here is to mourn the loss of the business without thinking about what might work next. One of the reasons DM is such a great asset is that it connects people in ways we weren’t connected before, and gives us a forum for this kind of information.

            As for Isabella’s itself, it may have had an idea of what wasn’t working in the first months after they opened. I wrote a detailed comment for them about the problems with our meal when we left (and no I didn’t ask for or expect a freebie or price adjustment bc I did a comment card). I never saw any change on the menu that enticed me to return. Other people probably gave them feedback, too.

            I hope that the next thing will be successful in that space, or those 2 spaces — that’s the goal.

            1. I spoke up to hopefully ward off the stinging comments made when Watershed and Feast closed. It’s hard to imagine that the criticisms didn’t hurt the folks involved in those endeavors.

              I didn’t say it wasn’t a valuable topic for discussion on here. I just doubt it feels real helpful to the current owners when it’s given on top of their closing announcement. As for it serving as an instruction for others, folks who are receptive to feedback can usually figure out ways to get it. (From my years in retail mgt./ buying, I can attest that hearing folks’ two cents is interesting and often useful, but it’s rarely, if ever, the “be all.”)

                1. Rail! Of course! Thanks for fixing!

                  ( I muddled my mulling over how the Watershed and Feast folks must feel about the pretty thankless task of trying to please the carpers. I was thinking how Watershed must be looking forward to moving to where it’ll be embraced, and how the Feast folks could surely use a boost of community tlc.)

                    1. Does highbrow + tourist = enthusiastic + appreciative? I can’t decide if that’s true or you’re joking.
                      Somewhat relevant to that, I had a ‘foodie’ friend visit recently from SF who made a huge enthusiastic effort to eat “southern/local” — empire ss, miller union, south city, c&a, etc. His favorite was Mary Mac’s. Cracked me up.

                    2. RenfroeMom- Yes, in meshing my “embracing” with nelliebelle’s terms, it seems to me that tourists will eagerly flock to this nationally famous restaurant, and the highbrow folks will enjoy Watershed for being the upscale southern jewel that it is.

      2. I’m sorry, but this is a business closing. No one died. No property was destroyed. Yes, there are some personal feelings involved on the part of the owners, staff, and possibly any dedicated patrons, but by equating this with a funeral or something in which we are somehow being disrespectful by daring to speak ill of the dearly departed seems to me at best silly and at worst dangerous. But we live in a country whose supreme court (and leading Republican presidential candidate) recently declared that businesses are equal to human beings and should be treated accordingly. So maybe I’m the one who’s crazy.

    3. Anyone who has ever been in the food service business at the ownership or management level would tell you it is a difficult business at best. There are so many variables that have to be factored together all the time and the attrition rate has been and will continue to be high. I admire the successful people who seem to get it right and work incredibly long hours.

  8. Got the recent Scoutmob and went there for the first time about a month ago. I thought the food was fantastic – very interesting and different for our area. Perhaps the prices we’re a little high and a less expensive, more casual atmosphere would have been better but I was looking forward to going back. I’m sad to see Isabella’s go now that I just discovered it.

  9. A nice enough neighborhood spot, though I agree with what’s been said here re: price vs. portion, atmosphere, and whatnot.

    The real challenge is that it’s two storefronts originally built out for Moxie Java, who ended up being underfunded to go the distance, so I’m sure the rent is tough for someone trying to build up a following. I’d be thrilled if they reverted to two separate spaces to serve more as incubator space for small but promising ventures.

    1. I think it was a little longer than that, more like 6-9 mos., but it wasn’t long enough. I really liked the place but the owner explained that it just didn’t have the volume necessary to justify the investment. I got the sense that he and partners were experienced enough to get out before huge losses occurred.

  10. The space was four times too big. If you have a smaller space, then it looks busy and full most of the time. Farm Burger is bursting at the seams, in part, to it being a small space. Whoever designed the interior of Farm Burger should be given a medal.

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