Vegetarian and vegan restaurant Cafe Sunflower is closing after over 25 years in Sandy Springs, according to its website and a Monday evening Facebook post. The Buckhead restaurant remains open for takeout.
“We were into our busiest season when the pandemic hit. As with so many others, our business was mostly obliterated. Difficult choices were made. Employees — some who had been with us for decades — had to be laid off,” the post from Jenny Sun reads. “Now comes the hardest choice in these bleak times: we can only save one restaurant. Today, it is with great sadness and difficulty that I let you know that our Sandy Springs restaurant will be closed permanently.”
Owners Lin Sun and Edward Sun, who immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in the 1970s, opened the Sandy Springs location of Cafe Sunflower in 1994, followed by the Buckhead restaurant on Peachtree Road three years later. Cafe Sunflower offers a mix of hearty vegetarian and vegan dishes influenced by the flavors and cuisines of Asia, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and the American Southwest.
“Both of our restaurants have suffered tremendous losses. Overnight, our business at Sandy Springs declined over 90 percent,” Sun tells Eater Atlanta of why the family chose to close the Sandy Springs restaurant. “Buckhead has been at 80 percent. We had to make the difficult financial decision to close Sandy Springs and focus all of our efforts into our remaining restaurant.”
The Buckhead location remains open for takeout from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily. A GoFundMe page has also been set up on behalf of all of Cafe Sunflower’s employees.
The devastating loss of revenue over the last few months, lack of rent relief or support from landlords, and inability to secure substantial emergency funding have left many restaurant owners with little choice but to close their businesses permanently amid the pandemic.
Chocolate and dessert shop Cacao Cafe in Virginia-Highland closed in early May after owners Kristen Hard and Caline Jarudi were unable to secure funding from the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and come to an agreement with their landlord for the retail shop on North Highland Avenue. The space is now for sub-lease, but the company continues to sell its chocolates online.
On Friday, May 8, two Atlanta restaurants announced closures due to COVID-19. Will Turner closed his Mexican soul food restaurant, Blaxican, in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. Turner could not come to an agreement on temporary rent relief with his landlord. Like Hard and Jarudi, he was unable to secure emergency loans. His catering business and food truck remain in operation. Panahar Bangladeshi Cuisine, co-owned by chef Khurshid Alam and Mirza Chowdhury, also closed Friday after 20 years on Buford Highway due to the ongoing pandemic.
Atlanta-based journalist, Sonam Vashi, wrote of the economic toll the pandemic is having on businesses and restaurants along the Buford Highway corridor in the June 2020 issue of Atlanta magazine. In the story, she revealed that longtime Buford Highway Korean restaurant Donquixote, now owned by Atlanta chef Allen Suh, was closing due to insurmountable financial difficulties stemming from the loss of revenue caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Update, May 12, 8:30 a.m.: This story has been updated with comments from Jenny Sun.
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