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Central Point restaurant to close

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Mazatlan Grill in Central Point is closing after 21 years

After 21 years in business, Mazatlan Grill in Central Point is closing, but with hope that its name will live on wherever its recipes turn up next.

The restaurant announced its closure this week after losing the lease on its longtime location in the Albertsons shopping center off Freeman Road.

Owner Rosalina Wahlberg said it had been a trying year between pandemic closures, workforce challenges and grocery supply limitations.

Trying to deliberate over lease lengths resulted in it coming to an end without the option to continue at the location. Wahlberg said the building owners wanted a five-year lease, which she was reluctant to do after a challenging year.

Though initial plans called for staying open through August, Wahlberg was uncertain Monday whether they would finish serving food through the week. Longtime customers and well-wishers trickled in and out after social media reports of the pending closure. An emotional Wahlberg said it was too hard to continue saying goodbye to familiar faces.

She recounted more than two decades at the location. Her children, now adults, were as young as 5 when the restaurant opened in 2000.

Wahlberg said customers had left messages via social media and visited in person to say goodbye, filling the restaurant to the brim.

“My kids were small when we started. They’re grown now. I didn’t realize how much (the restaurant) meant to the community. All these years, we just did our best. I realize what it means now,” she said.

“The ones showing up now, at the end, are the ones who came at the beginning. They always supported us.”

Wahlberg said she had been inundated with offers of help, including available properties at discounted prices. For now, she said she plans to “take a couple days off” and take stock of recent events. She alluded to talks with some employees about continuing with the Mazatlan name in some capacity.

Longtime customer Patricia Alvarez, who said the family-run restaurant was a favorite for her family, said she was heartbroken to learn of the closure. Alvarez said Wahlberg always supported community fundraisers and treated customers like family.

“My family had been going there since they opened in Medford, before Central Point. My grandson started walking there — he would go around to everyone’s tables — he just graduated high school. We have been friends with many of the servers for years,” Alvarez said. “I will definitely support any new Mazatlan.”

Medford resident Rhett Jones said he was was sad to hear of the looming closure, where he said his family celebrated birthdays and anniversaries.

“I know the pandemic has been hard on everyone, and then losing their lease, how much can a small business deal with in this day and age? This last year they were closed, then not closed, then closed. Masks, no masks. I’m sad to see them go. I hope they’ll get their bearings and come back when they’re ready,” he said. “I know they certainly have a loyal following.”

Mazatlan customer Launda Dodd said the sudden closure announcement was the hardest part — preventing a proper goodbye. Dodd dropped off a note for Wahlberg and crew.

“It was just always a happy place to go. The food was good, margaritas were good, service was excellent. I’m just really sad for these small local businesses who couldn’t end up OK after going through a year of the whole COVID thing,” said Dodd. “I hope they can continue somewhere else or that their name can go on in some way.”

Wahlberg urged the community to support small businesses, including whatever eatery moved into her former space.

“I want the community to keep supporting these small businesses. I just need a few days off, and we’ll see what the future is going to offer me. I don’t hope something will happen. I know something will happen,” she said.

“I love my community. I love my customers. I love my crew. I hope everyone will be OK.”

For updates on the closure, see mazatlangrill.com.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.