Arsaga’s at the Depot / Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer Staff
A beloved Fayetteville gathering place has closed its doors for good.
Arsaga’s at the Depot, the restaurant and coffee shop located at 548 W. Dickson St., officially closed on Wednesday, Aug. 18.
The restaurant first opened in the summer of 2012, though it became such an important and beloved part of the community over those nine years, it seems like it has been there much longer.
Owner Cary Arsaga spent more than a year remodeling the space, located inside the former railroad depot building near the train tracks along Scull Creek Trail.
He did some of the the work himself, (and supervised Marc Gunther while he did quite a bit of it, he said) transforming the building that, before he got ahold of it, was definitely showing its age.
At the time, he said it felt like something he just needed to do.
“I know my wife thinks I’m crazy,” Cary told us back in September of 2011. “When I got into the business 20 years ago, I wanted to open in the train depot. Then when the building next door came open, I just felt like ‘I have to do this.’”
The restaurant’s future came into question in 2019 when the city became involved in talks to locate a new parking deck in the private parking lot next to the building. The deck would be built to replace the parking in the West Avenue parking lot across the street that will soon be lost when it becomes a part of The Ramble cultural arts district project that is currently in development.
On top of that, the Arsaga’s had been working on another restaurant project, Arsaga’s Mill District, which opened earlier this year.
Ultimately, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that closed Arsaga’s at the Depot in March 2020. The restaurant never fully reopened after that, though it did serve coffee and pastries (and for a delicious dessert called “Moonsnow,” kind of a hybrid between shaved ice and ice cream) last summer, and briefly this year.
When the restaurant reopened this spring, Ava Arsaga made clear that it was likely a temporary situation, and primarily a way to let customers say goodbye to the space.
“We’re thinking about this little interval as time people can come spend at the Depot again and maybe say goodbye as they say hello,” Ava Arsaga told us back in the spring.
“We are 99.999% certain we will not re-open as a restaurant there again,” she said. “We’ve moved our kitchen wing and crew to the Mill and no one in the company has any interest in running two restaurants at once because we want to be happy.”
For those who loved the restaurant, a handful of menu items from Arsaga’s at the Depot have made their way onto the menu at the Mill District location.
The new restaurant also includes access to the trail system, an open outdoor seating area, and a lot of the same type of charm found at the Depot.
Fans of the Depot location got wind of the closure earlier this week, and visited the restaurant on its final day. We saw several tributes posted online.
Owner Cary Arsaga said he was moved by the notes circulating on social media. He sent us a statement on the closure Thursday, which does leave open the possibility that the Depot could one day return to Fayetteville.
His full statement is below.
Statement from Cary Arsaga on the closing of Arsaga’s at the Depot
My grandson, Nile, served the last cup of coffee at the Depot yesterday, Wednesday, Aug. 18.
It seemed appropriate because our whole family has been so involved with creating, opening, and running of the Depot since its inception in July of 2012.
Nile was the last punctuation at the end of almost a decade of being open.
Our goal when we opened was to create a family friendly community space and try to save an old historic building that was in almost total disrepair.
The building, its location in the community, the completion of the newly opened Frisco Trail at the rear of the building, and the Arkansas/Missouri train going by twice a day helped to create a space that was immediately embraced by many in the community.
Oh, and the crepes!
Every customer seemed to have their favorite; the Nutella, Lemon Curd, Turkey in the Straw, (That probably wasn’t one, but my memory is fading).
Of course, there was our best selling item, the Brezinski, named after a beloved co-worker who created it.
We couldn’t have asked for a better reception from our community. In fact, it was overwhelming. I can remember one day Cindy had to make three trips to the grocery store before noon to replenish supplies.
We were totally unprepared for that much business but the community was patient with us until we could figure it out and get it right.
Truth be told, it was always a tad dysfunctional but I think that was part of its charm.
A lot has happened. A parking deck will be build in front of the Depot, and I’m told groundwork will begin in about a month.
We decided to close our doors at the Depot and move our staff to the reopening of the U of A Law School coffee shop in about a week.
It’s been a great 10 years, and I want to thank all of you for making it a community space that you infused with your presence, energy, and love.
It will live on because of that.
P.S. We have the first option to go back in the building when the parking lot is complete. Who knows what the future holds.