Between dealing with the pandemic, downtown construction and many fewer Mayo Clinic employees looking for lunch, a popular eatery in the First Avenue Food Court is closing for good at the end of August.

Under the “Wizard of Oz” (and Elton John) theme of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” LeeAnn Zubay posted a farewell message to the customers of Lettuce Unite on Wednesday.

Championship Dining has operated in the once-busy food court in the downtown skyway for eight years, two under the Lettuce Unite sign. Owned by Jerry, LeeAnn and Lindsay Zubay, plus Chef Justin Schoville, Championship also operates Hot Chip, Porch Fried Chicken and Vegan Hot Chip, as well as Mr. Pizza North in Rochester.

Zubay lauded the Lettuce Unite staff, which will move to the other Championship restaurants. She also wrote about how difficult it is to close something that you worked so hard to create and make thrive.

“It’s hard to put your heart, brains, courage and soul into something you love and watch it deteriorate so quickly at the end. COVID, the true Wicked Witch of the East, took a significant toll and will continue to wreak havoc with the food industry for months to come. Like COVID, the construction landed right on the heart of downtown like a house tossed about in a cyclone right in Kansas,” she wrote. “Before the wickedness could wither away, we found out several departments of Mayo are not returning to downtown. I’ve heard that the number is close to 5000 people who used to lunch and shop, maybe even sing and dance, will no longer be working from downtown.”

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For the record, Mayo Clinic officials, via Ginger Plumbo, say that while they don't have specific numbers about how many downtown employees will work from home long term, 5,000 "would not be a reasonable estimate."

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in "Heard on the Street." Send tips to or via Twitter to @whereskiger. You can call him at 507-285-7798.