Crossroads Deli Sold, Remaining Open Under New Ownership

After an uncertain several months, the ownership group of Crossroads Deli in Minnetonka has sold the business, and it will remain open.

“It’s been in the works for a while, but we finally found someone who wanted to operate the restaurant,” said Jamie Heilicher, part of the family who owned the business since it opened in 1996. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do and so it was hanging up the sale; We’ve had all kinds of opportunities to sell it to developers that were just going to tear it down and build apartments on it. But we’ve been trying to avoid that and to keep the legacy going.”

The restaurant, the land it sits on, and all the recipes of Crossroads were purchased by Alex Gomez, who is part of a group that owns about 30 restaurants, including El Loro and Racks Sports Bar & Grill. Gomez closed on purchasing the deli on March 7 and took over the next day. They have rehired all of the employees. On March 11 he was in meetings all day with staff as he learned about the deli.

“Their intent is to keep it as Crossroads,” Heilicher said. 

The original ownership group of Crossroads was Amos Heilicher, Daniel Heilicher, Norman Pink, Kevin Hill, and Scott Hill. Amos and Daniel were brothers, and Jamie is Daniel’s son. The Heilicher family and Pink, a cousin of the Heilichers, financed the creation of the restaurant and brought on the Hill brothers to run the restaurant. Kevin Hill ran the Circus Pizza restaurants that the Heilichers and Pink owned for many years before the family sold them back to Chuck E. Cheese when that company moved back to the Twin Cities. 

Jamie Heilicher said that Scott Hill had a career as a chef, and had been at Golden Valley Country Club previously. He said the Hill brothers were looking for a restaurant opportunity together.

“The family decided to put them in business, give them a piece of the action, and open Crossroads,” he said.

The decision to sell comes as the Hill brothers are in their 70s and “need to retire,” Heilicher said. The Hills are being kept on as consultants for a short time.

“Danny and Amos passed away some years ago, and Norman just passed away this past spring,” Heilicher said. “And Kevin and Scott were looking to retire. And we were looking to find an operator.”

The legacy was important to Heilicher as they went through the process of looking for a buyer.

“The legacy of having a restaurant that’s part of the family and part of the fabric of the community was important,” he said. “We couldn’t continue to operate it without Kevin and Scott.”

Heilicher said the struggle for legacy, family-owned restaurants is that when the family decides they are done, the restaurant closes. Some of the difficulty comes because the landlord and the restaurant operator are two different people.

“The lease is difficult, you can’t get any money for your restaurant because they have to negotiate with a landlord that usually isn’t cooperative to keeping it going under the previous agreements,” he said. “It’s hard enough to make money with a restaurant, let alone trying to accommodate a landlord that wants a lot more rent for their location.”

In the case of Crossroads, the landlord and restaurant operators are one and the same.

“We were able to sell the real estate with it so that the buyer has more control,” Heilicher said. “And in today’s world, most restaurant operators are not real estate people so they don’t have the wherewithal to buy the real estate.”

Heilicher said that the combination of their real estate prowess and bringing in the right people to run the restaurant operations over the years has proven to be the secret to their success.

“That has been the success for a number of restaurants that we’ve been involved in over the years is to own the real estate and own the operation,” he said. “You have more control, and that’s why a lot of restaurants go out [of business]. They’re just renting space, and when their leases come up and their lease rate goes way up, they can’t justify it they can’t make enough money.

“One-off restaurants are very difficult to keep going for an extended period of time.”