A host of well-wishers attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies at Ruby G’s Soul Food Kitchen, 1623 Simpson St. Owner Cora Hunt-Galbreath and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl cut the ribbon. Most of the celebratory group then walked one block west, to 1723 Simpson St., for a ribbon-cutting at Fresh Foods, a new grocery store.

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Five businesses, two of them long-standing in the community and all popular to their loyal customers, closed their doors before the New Year. Despite closures, nine new businesses have opened or will open soon around town.

Merle’s Barbeque, 1727 Benson Ave., closed after 20 years of service in the neighborhood. Merle’s website said the restaurant had lost its lease.

Casteel Coffee, 2922 Central St., closed its doors Jan. 7. Owner Carol Harris and the Casteel family said on the company’s website, “We took many measures to avoid this alternative, to no avail. It is with a heavy heart that we make this difficult decision.” There will be an upcoming liquidation sale for the shop but it will not include the sale of coffee beans, the owners said.

Tiny Dog Cupcake, 616 Davis St., ended its confectionery run after 13 months in the downtown area. The bakery informed followers of the closing on Twitter and on its website.

Two other recently opened businesses have closed, Bucephalus Bikes,1532 Crain St., which opened in Oct. 2010, and 38 Degrees, 940 Church St., a yogurt shop that opened in Aug. 2010.

Nine new businesses, however, have recently opened, or will open imminently.

J.J Java, a new coffee shop at 911 Foster St., opened earlier this month.

Two new stores opened on Simpson Street: Fresh Foods has replaced the closed Ramy Foods at 1723 Simpson St.; and Ruby G’s Soul Food kitchen is now serving customers at 1623 Simpson St.

In the Florence/Crain area, Defining Moments, a custom paper-craft store, opened in December at 1127 Florence Ave.

Downtown, the French-named British sandwich retail chain Pret A Manger will officially open next week at 1701 Sherman Ave. There are new Asian and Tex-Mex places to dine downtown as well.

Asian salads and sandwiches are on the menu at Soulwich, 1634 Orrington Ave., and Bento Express offers Pan-Asian take out at 1739 Sherman Ave. Austin’s Tacos, 622 Davis St., may soon have company when Taco Diablo opens at 1029 Davis St.

The former Jacky’s Bistro, 2545 Prairie Ave., has a new identity as Hota, an upscale American, Latin and Spanish restaurant.

New businesses may encourage residents to participate in the City’s “shop-local” mentality. Alderman Delores Holmes, in whose Fifth Ward some of the new businesses lie, said she is very excited about the new economic growth there.

“I hope we can get people to support these neighborhood businesses,” said Ald. Holmes.