One of Detroit’s New American restaurant trailblazers is preparing to close. Chef Brendon Edwards notified local media on Saturday that five-year-old Corktown restaurant Gold Cash Gold will serve its final meal during its well-regarded brunch service on Sunday, February 2.
In statements to the Detroit Free Press and Crain’s the chef acknowledged that 2019 was a challenging year for the restaurant financially. Despite the looming promise of Ford’s developments inside Michigan Central Station and a brunch continued to attract crowds, Gold Cash Gold struggled to make ends meet. Edwards and partner Phil Cooley say competition from a growing number of Detroit restaurants, a lack of weeknight foot traffic, and the end of the winter North American International Auto Show all took a toll on the business’s bottom line.
Cooley tells Crain’s that he and the restaurant’s owners including Ryan Cooley, Ron Cooley, Toby Barlow, and Brian Boyle plan to sell the business. A listing price was not immediately released.
Gold Cash Gold opened inside a former pawn shop on Michigan Avenue in December 2014. Under opening chef Josh Stockton, it flourished as critically well-received Southern restaurant with a farm-to-table ethos and pickle brined fried chicken. Gold Cash Gold came in at number seven on the late Free Press critic Sylvia Rector’s list of best new restaurants for 2015 in a crop that included Selden Standard and soon-to-shutter Bistro 82. It was the runner up for Restaurant of the Year in the 2015 Eater Awards, with Stockton as a contender for Chef of the Year. In June 2015, one of the founding partners Eli Boyer had left the business, going on to open Voyager and Lovers Only.
However, Gold Cash Gold seemed to falter in 2016, canceling its underperforming lunch service and briefly introducing retail items. That fall, Stockton announced his departure for Las Vegas. Chef Brendon Edwards, formerly of Standby, took his place at the helm. Under Edwards the restaurant transitioned towards a more New American menu and in the past year refocused on Spanish and Latin American flavors.
Reached by Eater on Sunday evening Edwards acknowledged that he joined a restaurant that was operating at a loss. During his time at Gold Cash Gold, he worked hard to create a profitable business and succeeded. “I think it would have been helpful to do a few different things, but without the ability to rebrand or make refurbishments or change the concept right away, I kind of poked and prodded,” he says. “We make money now.”
Despite changing the course of and extending the life of the business, Edwards says the restaurant was likely facing three months operating at a loss. “It would have been a big gamble and it would have been unlikely to make it through three months and not have a cash infusion,” he says. The partners each had their money tied up in individual projects and wouldn’t have been able to float the business the funds to make it through the slower winter season.
Staff were notified of the closure on Friday. Edwards says he fought to give workers plenty of notice to find new positions, especially considering the season. A large proportion of the employees have been with the restaurant for two to three years. “We kept some people on staff and trained them and I think that’s what Detroit needs is good dedicated people to nurture and care for other people,” he says. He intends to use his local contacts to help find new positions for his staff.
As for Edwards, he plans to focus on finishing strong at the restaurant and will likely take break afterwards. Customers with gift certificates are encouraged to use them before the final day of service. The restaurant also has a few seats open for an upcoming wine dinner and is hosting its regular charity Tuesday night promotion, Buckets and Bubbles, with proceeds benefiting the Red Cross of Australia.
Updated, 6:19 p.m., January 12, 2019: This story has been updated with additional comments from chef Brendon Edwards.