A popular Lower Mills restaurant has been sold and will close later in February for what will likely be at least two months of renovations.
Ester, which opened in Lower Mills village four years ago in what was formerly The Ledge— was sold to a group of new investor/owners led by Julian Bolger, who has an interest in another Dorchester bar and eatery, Lucy's American Tavern.
Eleanor Arpino, a Lower Mills resident who opened ester in April 2014 with dreams of making the dining space a true "neighborhood place," said this week that tough competition in a dramatically changing restaurant market forced her to make a very tough decision.
"It’s not what I had hoped," Arpino told the Reporter. "I wanted a neighborhood place and eventually hoped to do a co-op and sell it to my employees. But, unfortunately, too many restaurants with much deeper pockets and connections have come online. And unfortunately the demographics have not changed."
"Realistically, it will catch up and they’ll all be fine, but I just can’t wait it out. I wish it wasn’t so, but the industry has changed significantly."
Arpino said that she will close ester after Sunday brunch on Feb. 11— giving her time to honor existing commitments with bookings — like wedding showers— and to give her staff time to plan their next steps.
"Julian Bolger is a very nice gentleman and he's actually pursuing this idea for over a year and a half. When we finally made this difficult decision, before going to a broker, we went to him and he jumped at opportunity."
Arpino said it makes sense to close in the winter for renovations so that Bolger and his new team can make full use of one of the restaurant's best features— an amazing outdoor patio— come the spring.
"Winter months are tough here and when we decided to move forward, it didn't make sense to suffer through a winter season. He wants to do some renovations— change the name, change the concept— and he didn’t want to lose out on patio season," she said.
Bolger has been very cooperative and has told Arpino that anyone on the staff who wants to stay on will be able to do so.
Arpino will not be among the staff at the new restaurant.
"I have no regrets. I'm not going anywhere, I love this neighborhood. But, unfortunately, I could not stay on."