FARMINGTON — After more than three-and-half years of operation, My Big Fat Greek Restaurant closed its doors last Saturday and the building is to be vacated by today.

"I am disappointed," said Jody Howlett, who owned the business at 3500 E. Main St.

He added that the eatery supported about 38 employees, though most were part time.

Howlett said failed lease negotiations are the reason he suddenly closed his restaurant on Saturday. The lease was going to expire soon and his lawyer had been negotiating with the owners of the building. Last Friday, the talks ended.

Howlett was told he had until today to move out of the building.

My Big Fat Greek Restaurant owner Jody Howlett, stands in the middle of his empty restaurant on Wednesday in Farmington. The restaurant was forced to close
My Big Fat Greek Restaurant owner Jody Howlett, stands in the middle of his empty restaurant on Wednesday in Farmington. The restaurant was forced to close when Howlett could not successfully renegotiate the lease. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

The building is owned by National Retail Properties of Orlando, Fla., according to San Juan County records. The company is a major real-estate trust traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Howlett declined to comment about specifics of the negotiations.

Phone messages and emails asking for comment from National Retail Properties were not returned late Wednesday afternoon.

Howlett bought the restaurant in May 2012. It had been operating since August 2011. He said the restaurant carries the name of a Phoenix-based chain, but he opted out of it being a franchise when he bought it.

He said the restaurant's performance over the past year has been sporadic, but was still good enough to remain open.

On Wednesday, five employees worked to move remaining items out of the building. All the tables, chairs and booths were gone. A large round table was set up in on the north side of the restaurant with large plates of some the eatery's signature menu items of lamb chops, potatoes and zucchini cakes with tzatziki sauce.

Family and workers served themselves during the family-style lunch.

"I think they all loved it here," said Howlett's mother Lanna Watson of the employees.

The empty building where My Big Fat Greek Restaurant used to be is shown on Wednesday in Farmington.
The empty building where My Big Fat Greek Restaurant used to be is shown on Wednesday in Farmington. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

Employees at the eatery deferred comments to Howlett.

Watson said she was sad that the restaurant was closing.

"I'm going to miss everything because it's a family. Everybody who worked here, you become attached to them," Watson said.

As the workers and family sat at the table eating, customers walked to the door expecting to be seated and served. Each stopped to read the posted sign notifying them of the closure of the restaurant.

"I'm disappointed," said Gary Jolicoeur, who drove from Gallup to Farmington on personal business.

"This is the one place I come to treat myself when I come to Farmington," he said, adding that moving from Florida to Gallup it has been difficult to find a restaurant that satisfies his palate.

A sign that reads "Not Lost, Not Forgotten," is shown inside what used to be My Big Fat Greek Restaurant on Wednesday in Farmington.
A sign that reads "Not Lost, Not Forgotten," is shown inside what used to be My Big Fat Greek Restaurant on Wednesday in Farmington. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

"They actually had good food," he said.

Howlett said right now he doesn't know if he'll reopen in a different location, but is thankful for the time the restaurant was open and the employees who helped him.

"Right now I'm going to take time to regroup and help all these people (employees) because they have helped me. They and my friends have all been good to me," he said.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.