Pete and Laurie Toarmina, owners of Mangiamo Italian Grill, plan to sell their three-story building on Michigan Avenue to the owners of Chelsea’s Smokehouse 52.
On Monday, the Toarminas, who received the Saline Salutes George A Anderson Vision Award in 2014, notified their employees about the pending sale. The new restaurant will give Mangiamo employees the chance to interview with the new restaurant, according to Pete Toarmina.
Phil and Jennifer Tolliver opened Smokehouse 52 on Main Street in downtown Chelsea in 2013. The Tollivers declined to be interviewed before finalizing the sale of the the building. Taormina said the Tollivers plan a barbecue restaurant on the main floor and apartments on the upper floors.
The Toarminas weren’t planning to leave the business, but as Pete struggled with a health issue the Toarminas received an unexpected offer for the building.
“This has all just developed in the last week. We didn’t list the building. I was talking to my accountant and he told me knew of someone who was looking for a building in Saline,” Toarmina said.
Toarmina is struggling with myasthenia gravis which, even with treatment, has made it difficult for him to speak and eat. According to the Mayo Clinic, myasthenia gravis is characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of any of the muscles under one’s voluntary control. There is no cure.
“The pills I take don’t seem to work as well as they once did. It’s really hard to talk and you can’t operate a business like this very well if you can’t talk,” Toarmina said.
He also has trouble swallowing and eating.
The Toarminas have invested substantial time and money in their business and their building. Nearly every day, you can find Pete walking up and down the stairs, working on something in the building. In recent years, the Toarminas opened banquet and entertainment facilities on the second floor. The second floor has hosted a popular music series, Accoustic Routes, which showcases national and local acts. Last fall, the Toarminas opened the third floor for bocce ball leagues and events.
It’s not easy for the Toarminas to walk away.
“My head is spinning and my stomach is in a knot. I’m very heartbroken that this will not stay an Italian restaurant. And we’re sad that there won’t be banquets on the second floor and bocce ball on the third floor,” Toarmina said.
The restaurant will likely close by the end of February. Pete Toarmina plans to retire.
Smokehouse 52 offers barbecue entrees for between $15 to $20. Sandwich and fries meals general cost $10 to $15.