The move comes at the request of the Downtown Silver Spring center, according to Grace Abi-Najm Shea, one of the five children (and current owners/operators) of founders Tanios and Marie Abi-Naim, whose official title is executive vice president (“but we all do everything”).
“One of the big costs we have is rent, and so we’re not upset that we’re going to have a little bit smaller location. It works out well for us,” she continued.
The café was one of the first tenants of the center and has been on Ellsworth for 15 years, Shea pointed out, adding, “We’re happy that we’re able to stay in the same development at least, and not have to look elsewhere in Silver Spring, because that is a strong store for us.”
A similar situation occurred with the company’s outlet in Congressional Plaza when that landlord moved them to a smaller location, along with two other tenants, to make room for a Barnes & Noble.
“[Landlords] make decisions based on what is best for their centers,” Shea said. “Sometimes we get included in that, sometimes we don’t, but that’s one of the things about being around for a long time.
“A smaller location is easier for us to manage, the labor force is easier—there’s lots of benefits,” Shea added, reiterating that the company wasn’t unhappy about the move.
“As the restaurant industry changes and grows and the competition becomes greater every day, we do need to plan out our next 40 years,” Shea said about the company that was founded in 1979.
The new location will see a slight name change, though.
“A lot of our customers refer to us as Leb Tav,” Shea said. “The sign will say Leb Tav [with] Lebanese Taverna underneath.”
The menu will be about the same, she added, with perhaps a couple of changes because of space issues in a smaller location.
“The menu will be a little bit different,” she continued. “The big thing is that there’s no kabobs.
“It’s geared towards a little bit speedier service. Currently, we have a full-service restaurant in a quick-service environment,” Shea said. “We just need to make some adjustments so that it doesn’t take 15 minutes for the chicken kabobs, because we don’t do any pre-cooking.”
But customers will still find the offerings prepared by the same staff using the same recipes, she added.
The new location is expected to open by the end of June.
Photo by David Lay