'Anything that brings synergy ... is good for everybody'

'Anything that brings synergy ... is good for everybody'

EUGENE, Ore. - When Cafe Zenon closed last fall, Ambrosia restaurant opened for business for the first time ever without the elder cafe operating just across East Broadway.

If you think Ambrosia's owner was happy to see the competition go, think again.

"I will take part credit for him coming to open Zenon," said Ambrosia owner Armen Kevrekian, who has operated Ambrosia just across the street from Zenon since 1987.

Kevrekian told KVAL News he encouraged resaturateur Ibrahim Hamide to step up to the plate.

"I think that anything that brings synergy to downtown or to an area is good for everybody," Kevrekian said.

Here's the hope: 30 new jobs, the re-opening of a restaurant and another spark of hope for downtown Eugene.

Merchants are hoping the impending revival of Cafe Zenon will be a recipe for the future.

"There's no reason why it can't do well again," said Eugene restaurateur Ibrahim Hamide, owner of Cafe Soriah and Casablanca Cafe -- and now Cafe Zenon, too.

Hamide has signed a lease to re-open the iconic eatery and says he'll probably keep the Zenon name. Hamide plans to hire 25 to 30 employees for the reopening of the cafe.

"That place was a happening place," Hamide said. "It was noisy and full of life all the time. We're hoping to recreate that."

A bustling restaurant takes employees would mean the return of jobs lost when the restaurant closed.

Jerome Johnson was a server and manager at Cafe Zenon for 9 years. 

"I hope it stays open for a long time, hopefully longer than what it was -- 26 years," he said. "Hopefully a lot of us will get hired back, but there's no guarantee on that."

Down the street, book store owner Jeremy Nissel is optimistic. 

"It gives us a lot of hope that this block will become more active than it has been since Zenon went away," he said.

And the new owner is a local entrepreneaur who knows downtown and is voting with his enterprise.

"He's stepping up to take on this new venture in a difficult environment, and I think that speaks volumes about the future of downtown," said Dave Hauser, director of the Eugene Chamber of Commerce.

Hamide said he is wary of the economic pressures that led to the cafe's sudden closure last fall, but he's equally optimistic -- like the captain of an old ship. 

"Get some paint splashed on it, some coal in the engine, and get it humming again," Hamide said.