Owner: Economy squeezed Walla Walla's Lorenzo's Pizza out

Al Sella said the eatery he worked at since the mid-1980s became untenable, leading to its closure Monday.

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Replacing the cars usually lined up at the front of the building, an empty parking lot will now be the norm for Lorenzo's Pizza. As of Monday (?) the long-time pizza parlor and buffet has closed its doors for... November 3, 2011

WALLA WALLA -- Al Sella began working at Lorenzo's Pizza during his senior year at Walla Walla High School. After graduating in 1985 he continued to work at the pizza parlor and buffet, eventually buying the business from Loren and Sue Chestnut in 1996.

For the last 15 years, Sella and his wife, Theresa, have run Lorenzo's. Monday, the restaurant closed for good.

"It's pretty devastating for our family," Sella said in a phone interview Tuesday. "To let it go -- it was so hard."

A combination of high overhead and declining sales due to the economic downturn made running the business untenable, Sella said.

"I just got squeezed out in the middle," Sella said. "The economy had a big play in it."

Shutting down the familiar family restaurant wasn't the first option, however. Sella said he had tried to find another, less expensive location.

"I knew probably awhile back I wouldn't be able to stay here," Sella said, adding he even considered turning the restaurant into a delivery-only store to save on overhead. "I just didn't have the numbers on my side to do it."

Sella contemplated trying to sell the business, but said profits didn't look good enough to potential buyers. Sella said his last option was to close, and sell all his equipment, leaving roughly 20 employees out of work.

Sella said he and his family will take some time to "get human again" after the hectic schedule of a restaurant owner, and then begin looking for other work.

"We haven't had a day off in years," Sella said.

Loren and Sue Chestnut didn't comment on plans for the Plaza Way property.

Sella has scheduled an auction for tables, chairs and other restaurant equipment Nov. 16.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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