The owners of DiGiulio Brothers near the Perkins Road overpass have purchased the neighboring restaurant space recently vacated by Rama Thai Cuisine.
Mars-Cole LLC recently bought the property—located off Perkins, near its intersection with Christian Street—for $435,000, or $248 per square foot, from Jonnie Lu Kleinpeter, Rama’s landlord. In the short-term, DiGiulio Brothers co-owners Mike Johnson and Richard Cole, who are listed on the Secretary of State’s website as members of the LLC, plan to use the extra space for additional parking, though Johnson notes those plans are subject to change.
Johnson and Cole say they had no plans of evicting longtime neighbor Rama, even as the landlord was selling them the building, but now that Rama has closed, several options are on the table.
“We don’t know if we’ll tear down the building,” says Johnson, noting his employees have been parking in the four spots in front of Rama as well as on land behind the shuttered restaurant. “People have been calling me all day to see about leasing it out, or we could use it as a storage unit.”
Around the time the coronavirus pandemic began to spread through Baton Rouge, Johnson and Cole had been approached by Kleinpeter to see if the two were interested in buying the 1,750-square-foot area, and the two decided to seize the opportunity.
“It was kind of a defense,” Johnson says. “We bought it because somebody else would’ve bought it.”
The deal had been in the works before Rama announced it would permanently close after more than 40 years in operation, says Johnson, who originally thought they would simply lease out the space to the Thai restaurant.
“We were planning for them to remain open and were shocked when they went out of business,” Johnson says. “They closed around the time we were buying.”
Johnson says he and Cole officially took possession of the lot on May 14 but are allowing the Rama owners to continue vacating the premises for the remainder of this month, and likely into early June, free of any prorated rent.
Though the business partners don’t currently have any other plans for the space, Johnson says they will explore different options. Until then, Johnson says he and Cole should benefit from the additional parking spots the space will offer—a rarity in the overpass area.