The Pueblo Chieftan

Merlino’s Belvedere to close Dec. 31

CANON CITY — While four generations of the Merlino family have worked to keep a legacy alive through good times and bad, the 67-year-old Italian cuisine mainstay is preparing to close at the end of the year.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Mike Merlino, who owns Merlino’s Belvedere with his wife Cathie. “The economy is terrible and it may be getting better for the super rich but it’s not getting better for the rest of us.

“We have put every penny into trying to keep this business alive,” so retirement is not an option, Merlino said. “We have been able to give 30 days notice to our employees and we are really happy about that.”

The restaurant’s last day is Dec. 31 and many of its 26 employees have agreed to stay to see it through to closing.

For Mike Merlino the restaurant always has been a way of life. His father Tony, grandfather Ubaldo and son Adam all have worked in the family business, which started as a cider business and, in 1946, evolved to include the restaurant at 1330 Elm Ave.

The business survived a devastating fire in 1992 and managed to rebound from that.

“The economy has been even worse for us than the fire was,” Merlino said. “We had $1 million in insurance paid out, but it cost $1.6 million to rebuild,” so even with good business the family has struggled with that kind of debt.

Merlino, 64, and Cathie, his wife of 34 years, managed to keep the day-to-day operations going and maintain the restaurant whose reputation was built on homemade pasta and sauces, aged steaks and fresh baked bread.

Merlino said as he and Cathie have sat down with each of their employees to share the news they have cried every time. “It’s been really hard on us,” he said.

tharmon@chieftain.com

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