I admit that I don’t always pay much attention to the press releases that show up in my inbox plugging new business openings. But it was hard to ignore the press release announcing the opening today of Hot Table, a snazzy-looking new breakfast-lunch-and-early-dinner place in downtown Springfield, if only for the location: the former Gus & Paul’s spot on Main Street.
Hot Table occupies a prime spot in Springfield, at the main entrance to Tower Square, at the corner of Main and Boland Way. Gus & Paul’s had been at the location for 10 years before shutting down in 2007 (luckily, the original G&P remains open on Sumner Ave). The site was briefly occupied by Reins Deli but has been vacant since last year, leaving a glaring hole in the struggling downtown. What does it say about the health of the area if a deli can’t survive in the heart of downtown, on the ground floor of an office tower? Really, are all those attorneys from Longmeadow brown-bagging it these days?
Hot Table—which pitches itself as “delicious, fast, casual dining”—is owned by brothers John and Chris DeVoie, Springfield natives who also have a location near WNEC, their alma mater. The menu looks promising—lots of pannini, salads, pizza, plus fancy-pants coffee.
Anyone opening a new business in this economy can't help but be aware of the risks involved, and the pressure's especially intense on Hot Table's owners: This spring, as Hot Table prepared to set up shop at Tower Square, Russ Denver, president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield told BusinessWest, “The corner spot at Tower Square is the most visible location in downtown, and the importance of having a vibrant business at that location is immeasurable.”
Mayor Domenic Sarno, meanwhile, was scheduled to speak at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the restaurant this afternoon. Presumably, that means Hot Table meets the mayor's standards for the kind of upscalish restaurant he wants to see in downtown—one of his stated reasons for pressing hot dog vendor John Verducci out of his longtime spot on Worthington Street— an apparently endless saga memorably dubbed by Springfield Republican reporter Stephanie Barry as "Wienergate."