Gilbert's Closed Again

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If you're looking to remember the rich history of Gilbert's, Tim Brown's 23 years as owner and manager are a good place to start.

"I always envisioned myself as the caretaker of a grand ole place. it was a good long run," Brown says.

"Many parties, proms, weddings--a lot of memories," he says.

He gave up the restaurant in 2003 to a company called DMA holdings. They put in $1.1 million dollars and opened it up at Christmas 2004 with high hopes.

"The amount of money we put into it we were expecting very big things," their restaurant division president Mo Huntley says. He says it never really picked up steam.

"It takes a lot more than 2 or 3 times a years to keep a restaurant going in a town that is losing population," Huntley says.

Friday, as he tells it, things took a turn for the worse. DMA Holdings has sold their restaurant division, and they were in the midst of negotiating a new rent with Griffin Properties. He says the two couldn't come to terms.

The landlord, who we spoke with by phone today, disputes those facts, saying the company owes him and others tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars.

In any case, the doors were locked Saturday and the 55 employees told they are out of work.

Two had worked there for more than 40 years. Huntley gets misty describing telling them the news.

In addition, they had to cancel at least 25 reservations. "We had 22 Christmas Parties, 3 weddings," Huntley says, noting the timing is especially bad before the holidays.

What's unclear is what we happen to the building. It is currently for sale or lease. The landlord says they may find new owners, or Gilbert's may close for good.

He notes several people are interested in running it under its current name, but there are also several chains interested in the building.

Huntley's restaurant company, Deforest Hospitality, still owns D.Coy's in Lawton, Gilbert and Blake's in Okemos, and the Parlour in both Jackson and Kalamazoo.