Chef and owner Cory Reuss thanks all the supporters who have kept the business going since 2018, but says slower foot traffic and higher ingredient prices have made the model unsustainable.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 3, 2022
Just a few months away from what would have been his fourth birthday, the Collingswood Macona barbecue fusion restaurant is closing for good.
Known as much for its rotating staple of whimsical specials as for its traditional smoked meats, Macona was the debut chef concept for Cory Reuss, who left his position as executive chef at the Hilton DoubleTree on Broad Street in Philadelphia to open its doors.
Reuss was just as easy in the kitchen as he was on Instagram, where his delicious and spontaneous specials lured customers for Korean-style barbecue wings, a smoked pork banh mi, or bowls of ramen noodles with his trademark “sexy egg.” ” on top.
“What made me fun and interesting was doing things beyond the traditional barbecue,” he said. “There are still people today who never order normal food, but those people are not enough to keep it going.
“Being a chef for so many years and having this intimate little restaurant where he cooked and called people and spoke to people in person, that intimate connection was huge,” Reuss said.
“I think it made me a better chef,” he said. “It made me a more understanding chef, when it comes to what guests want and what pleases their palates, and not just mine.”
Even as recently as the early days of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Reuss said business was flourishing; however, the skyrocketing ingredient prices coupled with an overall decrease in foot traffic became too difficult to beat.
“The main reasons are obviously commercial levels, but the price of our products is insane,” he said. “But just because breast prices have doubled, I can’t take a $ 12 breast sandwich and turn it into $ 24. The only way to survive is by bulking where it makes up for a little bit.
“We just saw a big downturn in business and I don’t know what it relates to,” Reuss said. “I think you take this exact shot and put it in the city, and we’re incredibly busy. But that’s not where we are. “
Macona was also, in some ways, a neighborhood favorite that didn’t get the boost from foot traffic that other restaurants in the center of the Collingswood business district have enjoyed, Reuss said.
“General foot traffic in Collingswood generally stops just past Wawa,” he said.
“Most of our regulars were people who lived on that side of town and people who knew the flavors.”
The chef encouraged his patrons to mention the small, owner-run restaurants they enjoy, to better help them survive in an uncertain economy.
He thanked all the community members who have supported Macona since spring 2018 and said he has no regrets about “firing your shot” with a barbecue-driven concept.
“Part of the message is getting the word out so people support your local business,” Reuss said. “Everybody wants to talk about the places they don’t like, and there aren’t enough people promoting the places they really enjoy.
“For me, the main thing is how many people Macona touched and how many people we put a smile on their faces just for eating our food,” he said. “Just hanging out and talking was very important to me.”
Reuss said the store will run normally through the end of January, rerunning family specials like its burnt-end cheese steak before closing the doors for good.
“What am I going to do next, who knows?” he said. “The most important thing I’ll take with me is the connections and the beautiful people I’ve met.”