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Muio’s building, a downtown landmark, finally has a buyer

'We want downtown to be great': Brendan Yarema and two co-investors will take possession of the former Muio’s Restaurant site at the end of July
New ownership of former Muio’s building at 685 Queen St. E. have fingers crossed they can find an equally popular restaurant tenant for the ground floor

EDITOR'S NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared on SooToday on June 30. It is being republished for readers who may have missed it.

Whenever Brendan Yarema and his Sarnia Sting teammates ate post-game meals at Muio's Restaurant during the mid-1990s, he'd be quietly handed a paper bag from Rocco DiRenzo, the eatery's then-owner.

Just Yarema. No one else.

The bag had his name written on it.

It contained a few extra pieces of Muio's broasted chicken for the road, a little gift from management.

If Yarema was special in those days, he's even a bigger deal today.

The former Ontario Hockey League centre and two Sault Ste. Marie business partners have signed a deal to own the now-empty Muio's building at 685 Queen St. E., taking possession at the end of this month.

SooToday has learned Yarema's business partners in this investment are his wife Kyla Faganely, owner of Fit Bodies Fit Minds at 491 Queen St. E.; and long-time hockey friend John Glavota of Royal LePage Northern Advantage.

The trio own a number of other commercial properties in the downtown core.

They're going to spend some time renovating the building and are hoping to find an equally popular restaurant tenant for the ground floor.

"We're excited. Obviously we'd like to keep it as a restaurant," Yarema says.

"Somebody would have a hard act to follow there. Great broasted chicken, great chicken fingers. Oh my god, the home-made chicken fingers!"

Listing agent James Caicco, broker of record at Century 21 Choice Realty Inc., says the deal was signed last week.

"At the time of sale, we actually had two offers in," Caicco tells SooToday.

"Both offers were from local prospective buyers. We ended up choosing one."

Caicco describes the buyers as strong supporters of downtown Sault Ste. Marie.

"This is a great project for them, acquiring this building with the history and character of it."

"They don't have immediate plans. As soon as the deal closes, they're going to do some work on the building to improve it," Caicco said.

Muio's closed in August, 2021.

As SooToday first reported on June 16, the city has launched tax sale proceedings to collect $35,884 in property taxes owed. 

The property owner has one year to pay a cancellation price and stop the building from being sold by public tender.

The building was constructed in 1890 for the Bank of Commerce.

It also housed Angus Grant Wholesale before Muio's started there in 1961.

In 2009, Muio's received the city's community development award, recognizing its longstanding commitment to the downtown and facade improvements that enhanced the building while retaining its original character and charm.

Yarema, who was born in Sault Ste. Marie, played in eight other hockey leagues after the OHL, ending with Slovenia's Ljubljana Olimpija HK in 2010.

Post-retirement, he returned to his hometown, where he's worked at Algoma Steel in addition to buying and renovating commercial and residential real estate.

Business partner John Glavota also played a lot of European hockey.

"We grew up and played hockey together, since we were like five years old," Yarema says.

"We just renovated two buildings off from the old hospital.... We made it into a high-end triplex and the bungalow beside it."

"We just finished those. We revamped them and made them brand-new."

Last year, Yarema and his co-investors bought a building beside his wife's fitness studio at 491 Queen E.

"We've been trying to fix buildings up and stuff like that," he says.

"The downtown – people are trying to revamp it. There's a positive vibe there. People are trying to invest and bring their businesses downtown, which is encouraging."

"We have businesses down there. We want downtown to be great."

Upstairs at the Muio's building, one apartment has been recently renovated and is currently occupied.

The other upstairs apartment will be similarly renovated, Yarema said.

As for those bags of extra chicken that Rocco DiRenzo prepared with Yarema's name on them, Yarema finds it odd that he never actually met the Muio's owner.

"On the way home on the bus, I would be eating extra chicken and the other guys would be all jealous."

"I'll never forget that. I thought that was such a great gesture."

Yarema believes the DiRenzo Muio's concept would still work downtown.

"It's affordable. You get a lot of food. I'd love them to re-open. I really think there'd be lineups."

Yarema also loves the location.

"It's Muio's. It's the first thing you see when you come downtown. You turn that little bend there and it's – wham – right there.

"It's such an iconic thing. Thousands and thousands of families have eaten there.

"It's sort of sad because there will never be another Muio's."

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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