Editorial: Chandler’s gives way to Yankee Candle tourist tastes

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Well, it was nice while it lasted. Everyone has favorite restaurants for a nice dinner out, and no doubt over the years many residents of the Franklin County and North Quabbin area made Chandler’s restaurant in South Deerfield theirs.

Chandler’s was opened by Yankee Candle Co.’s founder Michael Kittredge in April of 1995 as his business was expanding into one of the world’s largest candle makers, and the flagship store on Routes 5 and 10 grew into a regional tourist draw. It was to provide a family dining experience featuring New England-style food, we reported at the time. It later became known for an extensive wine selection.

While it was located in what has now come to be known as Yankee Candle Village, the restaurant never seemed to cater to the hundreds of thousands of tourists a year who poured off I-91, shopped and then poured right back onto the interstate. The cafe inside the store did do a brisk business satisfying snack cravings of shoppers.

Many aspects of Mike Kittredge’s candle land have changed since he sold the business and it has been passed around to various corporate owners. One of the first to go was his antique car museum, which grew as much from his personal interest in cars as from his belief that it would provide a diversion for spouses less interested in candles and home decorating.

So, maybe the demise of Chandler’s was inevitable. The restaurant will close and be replaced with an Au Bon Pain chain restaurant in July, Yankee’s latest owners, Newell Rubbermaid, announced last week. The last day of business will be May 14.

A Yankee Candle spokeswoman said the decision was not made lightly, but the company believes the flagship store’s customers will like the addition of breakfast offerings as well as a more casual dining option that Au Bon Pain offers.

“This transition will allow us to focus on providing the ultimate guest experience for the visitors to the Village store, one of the largest tourist destinations in western Massachusetts,” Lindsay Kaplan said.

We hate to admit it, because we hate losing a nice dining option, but the change does make business sense if you are focused on running a retail candle destination. Mike Kittredge had a somewhat broader view of how his creation fit into the community, starting with the annual gifts to Deerfield and Whately and Frontier Regional School.

But that was then, this is now.

It will be the first Au Bon Pain in the western part of the state, and the chain seems excited by the prospect of feeding the half million guests who visit Yankee Candle each year — and local residents who might also be in the market for a new quick, casual breakfast, lunch or dinner.

If possible, says Yankee, it will offer current Chandler’s employees other opportunities within the company or assist them in finding other jobs.

We hope that they all have soft landings, perhaps with other locally run restaurants looking for quality employees, to serve regular customers and perhaps some of Chandler’s hungry clientele.