Tempe Chili's closes doors after 24 years

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

TEMPE, Ariz. -- For 24 years, Chili's restaurant has anchored the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive.

But Wednesday at 2 p.m., Chili's served its last meal and closed its doors for good.

"We used to get beers and have fantasy football stuff here," said Anthony Pappas, one of countless Arizona State University students who have dined at the restaurant.

One of the few remaining businesses in the once booming strip mall owned by ASU, Chili's closed to make way for the construction of a $350 million development.

The development will include a basketball arena where Olympic athletes will train, a conference center, and the city's first AAA Four Diamond hotel.

Nancy Hormann, Executive Director and President of the Downtown Tempe Community nonprofit organization, said the development is a much-needed addition to the Mill Avenue area.

But longtime Chili's customers and employees are sad to say goodbye.

"It's a nice place; a good location right next to Mill," said diner Ryan Henderson. "I'm sorry to see it go."

Chili's patrons visited the restaurant for one last meal Wednesday, and former and current employees reunited and reminisced.

"It's a great example of how life happens here," General Manager Nick Kretsedemas said.

Chili's was able to place the Tempe employees at other locations, Kretsedemas said.

The final business to close in the strip mall before the development goes up is SACKS Art of Sandwicherie, which has also been at its Mill Avenue location for about 24 years.

"We see students that come through, and now they have kids and they're coming through," said owner Ivan Morrow. "So it's sort of sad that we'll be closing up."

But Morrow is hoping to find a new home nearby.

"We're looking and we're hoping that something will pop up so that we can get back in here," he said.

The Mill Avenue and University Drive store closes in February, but Tempe customers can still visit SACKS at University and Hardy drives.

Chili's has other East Valley locations, including Dobson Road and Loop 202 in Mesa and Chandler Fashion Center.

Construction on the development could begin in about six months.