I’ve mentioned this before in these threads. There’s a chinese place in Milwaukee that’s been around for as long as I can remember and for as long as I can remember there’s really never been any cars in the parking lot. From time to time, usually during lunch I’ll see two or three cars there, but that’s it. I see they now have a website and some (good) reviews on FourSquare and google, but that’s new. I know the restaurant business well enough to know that you can’t even cover your overhead on a handful of customers per day. I always figured something was going on there. There’s just no way they’ve stayed afloat on restaurant income alone. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a delivery truck there either.
They’ve got a good location and if their food is as good as their reviews say, they’re really should be doing okay. Maybe they’re busy at night or when I’m not driving past. But, honestly, I’ve never seen more then two cars, usually none and I’ve never seen a full parking lot.
Not exactly fitting the OP, but once as an ambitious young salesman out doing cold calls, I stumbled into some office suite that was pretty obviously a white power/KKK/nazi/what have you “office”. I took one look at Maynard and Zed, and beat feet back to the outer world.
For a very long time my DH was convinced that a local comic book/cards/science fiction merchandise store near us was involved in money laundering or some other nefarious business. His prime evidence for this was that they had all “these old used comic books they were selling for huge amounts of dollars.” I thought it was hysterical even when he asked me if they had good weed after I bought some Battlestar Galactica stuff there. It took a very long time to convince him that various toy items could be valuable to adult collectors.
There was one in my neighborhood,too. More of a newstand than a candy store. A couple of brands of cigarettes, a few types of candy and month- old magazines in the front. Bets on the horses, number and I think poker games and possibly illegal slots in the back room. The meetings were in the cafes that never had any customers other than the ten or so Italian men who sat there all day
When I was a kid my family would sometimes go to an Italian restaraunt that we all thought was shady. On a Friday or Saturday night the parking lot would be full of gleaming new Cadillacs and Lincolns (easily 30-40 cars), but we’d go inside and the place would be empty except for two waiters playing cards in a booth. Occasionally there’d be another couple there, but never a crowd even close to matching the number of cars in the parking lot. The food was oustanding, it was dirt cheap and since it was empty, the service was great. They never made us feel unwelcome or tried hurry us out, either. At first, we couldn’t figure out where everybody was, then we realized they had to be in the basement. It was a free standing building and there were apartments on the second floor - but never a sign or a sound of a party up there. The best we could figure was that there was an illegal casino in the basement, maybe a speakeasy set up left over from Prohibition days.
The restaraunt is no longer there, but 50 years later it’s still a family joke.
My Italian immigrant ancestors opened a restaurant as a front for a numbers racket and producing alcohol during Prohibition. The illegal activities weren’t very successful but the restaurant operated for 50 years.
At the first floor of a block I used to live in, we had a thai massage parlour. I lived there for over a year without seeing anyone leave or enter the front door. However, I met a lot of young asian women coming in and out of their backdoor, which led into the laundry room. From some reason, they washed about three or four machines of white linens several times a day, all week. I have no idea what they were doing, but we used to joke about them using the massage parlour as a front for their household chores.
Never felt the desire to investigate. There is a sort of pall of weary sadness that seems to hang over that town, out of which occasional craziness emerges (IMLE), mostly we just wanted to get on to the next town from there.
I live in a pretty quiet neighbourhood. There’s a Persian restaurant on the main road a few minutes away. It has an ornate frontage and is a medium sized restaurant. I’ve never noticed customers at any more than one table. My ex and I tried the place out once and were the only people there. The staff were lovely and the food was good if rather plain, there was nothing fancy on the menu. It’s being going for years and yeah, I’m sure it’s a front for something.
In a complete contrast of style, was a strip of businesses near a bus stop I often used. Most of them were tacky looking takeaways and every one had a group of youths hanging around. Every so often a car would drive up, a youth would go to the window, collect something, go into one of the takeaways and return to hand something different to the driver. It was some of the most ridiculously blatant dealing I have ever seen outside of festivals. Funny thing was, the reason I was at that bus stop every couple of weeks was that my, far more discrete, weed connection lived in the nearby flats.
Here’s a local one fresh off the presses. After the story broke my kid said she always wondered how he could stay in business as a lot of his skater/surfer shop oriented merchandise was well out of date.
In my neighborhood there’s a suspicious 24-hour tanning salon. First off, my neighborhood is all young families and its hard to believe they have enough 4 am tanning emergencies to justify staying open. Second, their staff consists entirely of young hotties. I couldn’t figure out their scam at first, but my latest theory is, its a brothel.
For years and years, there was an egg roll stand across the street from campus on the main huge crosswalk. It was a vastly busy intersection and the food was incredibly cheap – in 1997 or so it was $0.75 for a huge egg roll (the size of a gas station burrito), or two for $1.25, fried rice, various Indian breads stuffed with various stuff. It was all pretty good; certainly it was amazing for the price. It was run by this cheerful little old Vietnamese lady. She used to sell us her leftover stock when it got close to five. We had more than one egg roll and fried rice feast, feeding half a dozen or more hungry students for five bucks.
Then she got busted for selling stolen electronics. No more happy egg roll lady.
IDK if this is still the case, but in the late 1990s, Sioux Falls, SD had dozens, if not hundreds, of little hole-in-the-wall “sandwich shops” that you had to be 21 to enter. They sold very few sandwiches, but did have slot machines.
There was a store in the small Illinois city where I used to live that advertised itself as a “thrift store” but the people were vague as to where the money went (if it was for profit, all they had to do was say so!) and it too had lots of expired, unsalable merchandise. 10-year-old packages of Today contraceptive sponges, that kind of thing. They did have a room with secondhand kids’ clothing and baby care supplies, as well as those cheap plastic toys on cardboard; IDK where they got them, but it looked like this was where most of their sales came from. My best guess is that much of their merchandise was purchased from assorted salvage operations; whether the business was legal was something I also didn’t know about.
**There are a number of bars in Bangkok that don’t seem to have any reason for existence. They’ve been around for years but never seem to have any customers when I go in. The Other Office Bar in Patpong 2 jumps to mind immediately. I’ve always wondered whether they’re a front for drug-money laundering.
There’s a Mexican Restaurant here, too, called Tia Maria that’s actually quite good. It opened in 1990. In a rather hard-to-find spot. The food is actually quite good – for Mexican food in Bangkok – but we’re often the only customers in there. I remember we had a big meal in there once with some friends and lingered over margaritas for a full two hours during a weekend dinnertime, and NO ONE else ever came in. We DO see other customers from time to time, and once or twice I’ve seen it MAYBE a quarter full, but it’s rare to see more than one other table with people, if that.
When we were living in Honolulu, there was a golf-pro shop close to Waikiki that DID get busted by the narcs. Owned and operated by South Korean or Japanese nationals, it was not a money-laundering setup, but rather the drugs were actually moving through there. The funny part is that after the raid and the arrests, the cops did not lock up, and I knew some people who went inside and helped themselves to a lot of stuff. There were some mighty fine bottles of alcohol in there; I know because the imbibing of some of it was shared with me.**
Since that post, however, Tia Maria finally closed.