LACONIA — The Faro Italian Grille has a new owner – someone who already owns property at Weirs Beach.
The restaurant property, located on Endicott Street North, is now owned by Rob Csendes, who owns a lot at the corner of the Endicott St. N. and Lakeside Avenue. He purchased the Faro property on Jan. 31 for $2.4 million, according to city and county tax records, from Richard Ray.
Ray had owned and operated the Faro property since 2007, when he, his father and his brother, bought the former Weirs Beach Lobster Pound. The Weirs Beach Lobster Pound was a small bar and seafood restaurant situated on a large lot, which filled with vendors and revelers during Laconia Motorcycle Week. The Rays kept the Motorcycle Week party going, and in 2014 developed the restaurant into fine Italian dining reminiscent of Boston’s North End. They also expanded the restaurant’s operation to year-round.
But after Richard Ray’s father passed away and his brother, Michael, retired, Richard found himself struggling to find enough staff to keep the restaurant operating. He closed down the restaurant in the middle of last summer, at which time he explained that the staffing levels had fallen so low that he didn’t feel that it was safe for his remaining workers.
Csendes, a real estate investor who lives in Bedford, said he saw a business opportunity in the Faro property, which includes two lots, each about 2.5 acres.
“We have the (property) across the street, that one’s worked out well for us, I know the area pretty well,” Csendes said. He has owned the property across from Faro since 2010, when he bought it at auction. At the time, the property still had the Weirs Beach Water Slide, which Csendes has since demolished to make room for vendors and parking during Motorcycle Week. He also developed a small restaurant on that property, the Boardwalk Bar and Grill.
Csendes said he bought the Faro property because “the numbers worked.” However, he acknowledged the challenges that Ray has faced with staffing the restaurant.
“It’s tough to get a restaurant to work there. The restaurant is large, which is an issue, the fact that it’s seasonal is an issue, and labor is tough, getting people to work there and stay around,” Csendes said.
The restaurant space is open for another person to lease, but Csendes said he doesn’t plan on running it himself.
“I’m thinking about different ideas to get it to work,” Csendes said. If he doesn’t find someone to lease the building, he’s thinking about converting it into something like an event or function space, “Something where I don’t need to have it staffed all of the time, something like that might be a better use of the space.”
Ray has applied the Italian recipes to a new, fast-casual model in Faro Express, located on Union Avenue, one which can operate with a fraction of the staff needed for a full-service restaurant. He had tried retirement, but said he grew restless spending so much time in Florida.
“I love Laconia, I consider it my home, I want to get back and get involved,” Ray said from Florida. “To go to Naples and just sit there and hang out, not for me, not now.”
Ray said he plans to grow the Faro Express model, with an eye toward finding another location.
Csendes, who has now doubled down on his Weirs Beach investment, said he is interested in seeing how the area develops.
“It’s a great location. Weirs Beach has so much to offer, the biggest beach on the lake, the Mount Washington cruise ship stops there, the train,” Csendes said. Yet, the area is also dominated by its largest attraction, the nation's oldest running motorcycle rally. “To me, Bike Week is such a great thing to have in the area, it brings so much business to the area, then it leaves a hole with what do you do with the property the other 51 weeks of the year… I’ve got to figure that out.”
Csendes said he wouldn’t close the door on further investment in The Weirs, either.
“We’re always looking. If something comes up that’s a good deal in a good location, I’d be interested,” he said.