John Murray III at his Hero Joint in Bay Shore...

John Murray III at his Hero Joint in Bay Shore last summer. Credit: John Roca

John Murray III considers himself “a restaurant lifer,” so his decision to close The Hero Joint locations in Patchogue and Bay Shore was particularly difficult.

Growing up in his father’s Wantagh bar, Mulcahy’s, he recalled, “I was filling ramekins with blue cheese at 5, working the deep fryer when I was in eighth grade.” When Murray grew up, he opened his own establishments specializing in hot and cold heroes, salads and cheesesteaks served with housemade fresh potato chips.

“You understand that a place isn’t going to be immediately profitable, but there comes a point where you have to accept that you are just not making enough money,” said Murray, who opened his Patchogue location in 2018, followed by Bay Shore in 2021.

Murray hopes to recoup some of his losses at an auction on Tuesday. American Auctions, Liquidations, Appraisals, Inc. will first ascertain if there’s anyone interested in purchasing the Bay Shore location, lock, stock and barrel. If not, all equipment and fixtures will go on the block.

Murray’s story is a familiar one, with many Long Island restaurateurs reporting the last few years have actually been worse than at the height of the pandemic. “Back then,” Murray said, “you had all this government money circulating and we still hadn’t felt the effects of inflation. A lot of us with SBA [Small Business Administration] loans had to put up the restaurant as collateral and then the SBA puts a lien on the property.” Murray has such a lien in Patchogue and will have to satisfy it if he manages to sell the lease.

The Hero Joints had to contend with the rising prices of labor and ingredients plus some costs that, he said, “customers don’t think about," like insurance, packaging and reprinting menus every time he had to increase prices. “A roast-beef sandwich isn’t lobster,” he said. “You can’t just put ‘market price.’ ”

The Hero Joint isn’t Murray’s only business: He owns two Kilwins candy-ice cream stores, one adjacent to the sandwich shop in Patchogue, the other in Babylon. And they are doing fine, he said. “Kilwins has a big name behind it, and my stores are 8 and 11 years old.” The big difference, he said, is those shops have things that aren't as easy to DIY.

“You can make a roast-beef sandwich at home,” he conceded. “But there’s no way it will be as good as the one I made at Hero Joint.”

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