Chef-owner Cory Reuss thanks all the supporters who’ve 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 shy of what would have been its fourth birthday, Collingswood barbecue fusion restaurant Macona 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-owned concept from Cory Reuss, who left his executive chef position at the Hilton DoubleTree on Broad Street in Philadelphia to open its doors.
Reuss was equally facile in the kitchen as he was on Instagram, where his mouth-watering, off-the-cuff specials lured customers in for Korean-style barbecue wings, a smoked pork banh mi, or ramen noodle bowls with his trademark “sexy egg” on top.
“What kept it fun for me, and kept it interesting, was doing things beyond traditional barbecue,” he said. “There’s still people today who never order the regular food, but those people aren’t enough to keep it going.
“Being a chef for so many years, and having this intimate little restaurant where I was cooking, ringing people up, and talking to people in person, that intimate connection was huge,” Reuss said.
“I think it made me a better chef,” he said. “It made me more of an understanding chef, as far as what guests want, and what pleases their palates, and not just my own.”
Even as recently as the earliest days of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Reuss said the business was flourishing; however, skyrocketing prices for ingredients coupled with a general dwindling of foot traffic became too much to overcome.
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“The main reasons are, obviously, business levels, but our product pricing is insane,” he said. “But just because brisket prices doubled, I can’t take a $12 brisket sandwich and make it $24. The only way to survive that is doing volume where it offsets it a little bit.
“We’ve just seen a major, major slump in business, and I don’t know what that’s related to,” Reuss said. “I think you take this exact blueprint and put it in the city, and we’re insanely busy. But that’s not where we are.”
Macona also was, 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.
“The general foot traffic of Collingswood generally stops just past Wawa,” he said.
“Most all of our regulars were people who live on that side of town, and people who knew flavors.”
The chef encouraged his patrons to shout-out the small, owner-driven eateries that they enjoy, to better help them survive in an uncertain economy.
He thanked all the members of the community who’ve supported Macona since the spring of 2018, and said he has no regrets about “shooting his shot” with a barbecue-driven concept.
“Part of the message is getting the word out there to have people support your local business,” Reuss said. “Everybody wants to talk s— about the places they don’t like, and not enough people promote the places they actually enjoy.
“The main thing for me is how many people Macona touched, and how many people we put a smile on their face just from eating our food,” he said. “Just hanging out and talking, that was big for me.”
Reuss said the shop will operate as normal until the end of January, re-running familiar specials like his burnt-ends cheesesteak before shutting the doors for good.
“What I’m going to do next, who knows?” he said. “The biggest thing I’ll take away from it are the connections and the beautiful people I’ve met.”
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