Former White Iris restaurant for sale in Lenox

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LENOX — For sale: A fully equipped restaurant, practically a "turnkey" opportunity, on Restaurant Row in the downtown historic district.

Asking price: $425,000, subject to negotiation.

That's the bottom line from restaurant entrepreneur Laura Shack, who closed her new White Iris Asian-cuisine eatery last week after barely a month in operation.

In a phone interview Monday, Shack said there are several "interested parties," so while White Iris is not officially on the market, it will be in a few weeks if no sale emerges by then.

The potential purchasers are not planning to retain the Asian fusion cuisine approach, she added.

"It could be reopened within a month, unless new owners wanted to make major changes," she explained.

According to building owner Robert Murray, head of Overlee Property Holdings and board president of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce, "We have already begun a search for a new tenant and have been approached by some interested parties."

"Laura still has a valid lease and she owns all the restaurant equipment," he added. "A new tenant will have to purchase the lease and the equipment from Laura and be approved by me."

Shack noted that the White Iris space has catering events and parties booked through August. The space is available for events until it is sold, she said.

The building, at 65 Church St., is the former home of the Church Street Cafe, owned and operated for 30 years by Rob and Linda Forman and by chef Clayton Hambrick, until it changed hands in 2011. After six years, the Lenox Restaurant Group sold it to Shack in September 2017.

It has 130 seats, half of them on the seasonal outdoor deck.

Shack emphasized that with three other restaurants to run — one a pebble's throw away in Lenox and two others she co-owns on Railroad Street in Great Barrington — it was just "too much added stress. Our lives are more important than another restaurant."

In an email blast last Wednesday announcing the closing of White Iris, Shack acknowledged another contributing factor — her recent cancer treatment.

"A recent scare with breast cancer (I have been treated and will be fine) along with the time and effort required to run three other restaurants helped me to come to this conclusion," she wrote. " My life and time with my family need to come first."

Although she had invested $565,000 to purchase the restaurant business and to acquire new equipment and furnishings, Shack told The Eagle on Monday that "the money wasn't as important as the added stress on our lives."

Her fiance, Frank DiLorenzo, had been executive chef at White Iris. He is a Lanesborough native and former chef at Firefly Gastropub & Catering Co., Shack's restaurant on Church Street for the past 25 years, first opened as the Roseborough Grill.

A total of 25 full- and part-time staffers had been hired for the new eatery.

Asked whether there's a glut of restaurants in Lenox, especially during the offseason, Shack pointed out that "there are not many more than in past years. There's a potential for year-round business if you do it the right way. Catering to locals is the main thing, and finding a niche that's not here."

Despite the demise of White Iris, Shack wanted to thank Leah Pittman of Philmont, N.Y., "for teaching us how to roll dumplings and sharing family recipes. We could not have done it without her."

Although Asian cuisine apparently will be missing from the downtown Lenox dining scene, it's in full flower just north of town as Jae's Asian Bistro is now in the Hilton Garden Inn, just over the border in Pittsfield, along with Enso Asian Bistro at 1035 South St., and the long-established Panda House nearby on Routes 7 and 20 in Lenox.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter@BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.

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