Hatem Buys The Mecca

From the News & Observer...

The Mecca, an eight-decade time capsule on East Martin Street and the city’s oldest restaurant, has been sold. But its new owner promises the downtown Raleigh landmark will live on unchanged.

The Dombalis family, who has operated the restaurant at 13 E. Martin St. for 88 years, announced the sale Tuesday to developer Greg Hatem and his restaurant group Empire Eats, which owns several downtown Raleigh restaurants.

”I love The Mecca,” said Hatem, who took over the restaurant Friday. “I think The Mecca is a fantastic restaurant just the way it is. We’re excited about carrying the torch.”

Hatem said he plans to keep the name, menu and staff.

”A place like The Mecca, you don’t own it, you’re a steward of it, and we’re proud to keep it going,” Hatem said.

In a statement, Mecca owner Floye Dombalis said the sale came down to just needing a break.

“The Mecca has weathered the myriad of changes to the downtown landscape and continues to thrive as more and more people choose downtown Raleigh as a destination,” Dombalis said. “But after almost 90 years, the day-to-day responsibilities of running a small business have taken a toll, and my son Paul and I have decided it’s time to retire.”

Floye Dombalis, 91, and her late husband, John, were the second generation of Mecca owners, taking over the restaurant from John’s father, Nicholas Dombalis, who founded it in 1930. For the past 16 years, their son Paul Dombalis, 60, ran the restaurant, though Floye remained a fixture at the cash register, greeting diners as they came and went. Floye Dombalis retired from the restaurant late last summer.

“We love and value the faithful customers and loyal employees who have served our customers these many years,” Floye Dombalis said. “We want to express our heartfelt gratitude for the many memories and friendships we have made in our little spot in downtown Raleigh. We take great comfort in knowing The Mecca is in good hands, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds.” ...
— Drew Jackson - N&O
Brent Woodcox