Sbarro LLC, the struggling Melville-based pizza chain that's long been a staple of shopping malls and roadside rest areas, emerged from bankruptcy Monday and announced plans to move its headquarters to Ohio.
The company, founded nearly six decades ago in Brooklyn, is heading to Columbus in an effort to cut costs and reinvent itself as an artisanal fast-food eatery to compete with Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill and others. All but a handful of Sbarro's 40 Melville-based employees will be laid off beginning in September.
"The company now can move forward with its plans to invest in and grow the business," Sbarro spokesman Jonathan Dedmon said. "We will be announcing progress and further plans for the business in the near future."
Sbarro will continue to operate local pizzerias. The move to Ohio will not affect the company's 2,700 remaining workers nationwide, including 400 in the metropolitan area, Dedmon said.
The departure marks yet another shift for Nassau and Suffolk's corporate landscape. For decades, Sbarro has been one of Long Island best-known national brands, seemingly ubiquitous in food courts from Los Angeles to Boston. Its exit puts the pizzeria on a list with Arrow Electronics, Gentiva Health Services Inc. and more than two dozen other once-local companies that have moved their headquarters elsewhere or been acquired since 2007.
Sbarro began as a family-run salumeria in 1956 and opened its first mall outlet in 1970, at Brooklyn's King's Plaza shopping center. The company's annual sales eventually grew to upward of $350 million, and the Sbarro family sold the business in 2007 to MidOcean Partners, a New York private equity firm, for $450 million.
The deal, however, left Sbarro laden with debt. The company filed for its first bankruptcy in 2011. After emerging from Chapter 11 in 2012, Sbarro scrambled to modernize, tinkering with new recipes, open-flame ovens and an upscale restaurant it debuted in Columbus, called Pizza Cucinova.
The effort wasn't enough. In February, Sbarro announced plans to close 182 locations. And in March it filed for Chapter 11. Now it's stepping forth again with less debt and, come October, a new corporate address.