"It all began in 2007," begins the conversation with John Davidson, "when the landlord violated my non-compete clause four months after we opened -- and Pajama Baking Company opened just a few doors down from me. We had to split business, which isn't what I'd signed up for."
But despite the competition, Davidson, the chef/owner of the Crushery, which closed today on South Pearl Street, had high hopes for his neighborhood joint, a popular gathering spot for Platt Park and Washington Park residents.
"I look at a lot of chefs who make money doing this -- our goal was to grow and expand the Crushery -- but along the way, I learned that I'm a much better chef than a restaurateur, plus I was working eighty hours a week, handing most of the profit I was making to our nanny, which didn't make any sense, and I was spending most of my time downstairs working on other things, like payroll, taxes and the books, when what I really want to do is cook," admits Davidson, adding that while the Crushery was successful, it was never his dream restaurant. "My background is in fine dining -- I worked at Gramercy Tavern and at Jax -- and while I really enjoyed doing this, I'd like to go back to fine dining, but I also want to be there for my kids, and I want to be in the kitchen."
The culmination of the non-complete-clause violation, long hours, and time spent away from his family eventually got the best of Davidson, who made the decision to sell the Crushery to Kayvan Khalatbari, who owns Sexy Pizza in Capitol Hill; the deal was inked yesterday. "I love the people in this neighborhood, and, in a way, I feel like I'm letting them down, but I got a very nice offer from Sexy Pizza, and now I'm going to take some time off and figure out what I'm going to do next," says Davidson.
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Part of his plan is to take his family to Oregon for the summer. "We need to get away and decompress and have some fun, and when I get back, then I'll decide what the future holds," he says. "I may do a fine-dining restaurant, or I may look for another space to just do our liquid nitrogen ice cream -- it's yet to be determined."
In the meantime, the second outpost of Sexy Pizza is slated to open in the former Crushery space on March 7, while India's Pearl, reportedly for sale for $2.2 million, still sits vacant on South Pearl Street, as does OTOTO and the Pearl Street Grill, which closed in late December and will swap spaces with Iakaya Den once its owners, Yasu and Toshi Kizaki, who also own Sushi Den and OTOTO, complete the Pearl Street Grill buildout.