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Ken’s American Café shuts its doors, reopens in spring?

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GROTON — In a development that has taken many locals by surprise, businesswoman and former candidate for state representative Virginia Wood has decided to close Ken’s American Café, her restaurant located on King Street in Littleton. The eatery shut its doors at the end of November.

“I had never intended to be in the restaurant business, but it was dumped in my lap when I divorced my husband,” Wood said. “I have done the best that I possibly could in the last five years and turned Ken’s into an art-related restaurant, with a focus on the local art community. But it’s not anything I ever set out to do with my life and I just don’t want to do it anymore.”

Wood, a resident of Old Dunstable Road, has operated Ken’s for the last 13 years, so her decision to close after such a long time caught many unawares and disappointed its many fans.

“Obviously, everybody was upset with the news,” Wood said. “I do have the business under agreement, so hopefully those folks will follow through and hopefully, by springtime, the restaurant will reopen.”

Wood admitted that doing business in the current economy has not been not easy for commercial enterprises, despite a boomlet in Littleton itself.

“The state of the economy did not help my situation,” Wood said. “That was a piece of it, but not the main reason for my deciding to close. On the flip side, right now Littleton is going through a growth boom, with IBM across the street and a new car dealership moving in. It’s turned out to be a good time to sell.”

Wood said that although the economy has slowed down over the past year, it was neither that nor losing a recent campaign to unseat incumbent state Rep. Robert Hargraves that prompted her to close the restaurant.

Despite the suddenness of the closing, Wood said she had been considering giving up the restaurant for some time.

“The restaurant business is not an easy business in any climate,” Wood said. “It has a knack of attracting folks who come with multiple kinds of personal baggage, like drug addiction and bipolarism, and it all became too much for me to deal with.”

Located in a vintage home along Route 110 near the center of Littleton, Ken’s American Café had specialized in family dining at all hours before closing its doors for the final time on Nov. 30.

The state of the local economy was one of the issues Wood concentrated on in her run for state office. Concerned about placing too great a burden on small businesses, such as her own, she was in favor of easing some state requirements for doing business.

“Littleton right now is in a unique position because there is so much happening here,” said Wood, who also tackled commercial considerations as a former member of Groton’s Board of Selectmen. “Things are turning around just in this town but on the larger scale, it’s very, very different. It’s incredibly difficult to run a business in this state between such things as unemployment requirements, insurance and paperwork. It’s tiresome; and as I said in my campaign, things need to change.”

Although she favors such entitlements as health care for everyone, Wood said she thought the responsibility for providing them rested more with the federal government than with the states.

“There’s plenty of things that can be done at the state level (to make things easier for small businesses),” said Wood. “In terms of requiring businesses to provide insurance to their employees in this economy, that needs to change. It doesn’t make sense. Health insurance should be provided at the federal level. If the state can’t step forward and pay for it, why do they think that small businesses can? It’s a whole way of thinking that needs to be changed.”

As for the future, Wood said she planned to take it easy for a while before worrying about what to do next.