Terra Nostra to close on Chattanooga's North Shore after 17-year run

Staff file photo Chef Efren Ormaza of Terra Nostra is shown at a food contest at the Chattanooga Market in this file photo. He and his wife, Gema, plan to close their longtime North Shore restaurant next month.

Frazier was starting to bloom.

When Efren and Gema Ormaza started their Chattanooga restaurant 17 years ago on Frazier Avenue, downtown's North Shore was taking off.

"Frazier was starting to bloom," said Efren Ormaza on Monday. "It was starting to get popular."

While the North Shore continues its surge, the Ormazas have decided to close their longtime eatery called Terra Nostra on July 6. Their aim is to spend more time with family as well as keep working on a foundation for medical missions to their native Ecuador, he said.

"We plan to continue to work on that," Ormaza said.

The restaurant at 105 Frazier, which specializes in tapas and wine, survived both the closing of the Market Street bridge for well more than a year in 2005 for renovation as well as the Great Recession a few years later, he said.

Gema Ormaza, who supervises baking, chooses the wine list and runs the front of Terra Nostra, cited both customers and employees for the eatery's long run.

"Before we close, we want to thank our customers for letting us feed them for 17 years," she said. We also want to thank our amazing employees, who have all been with us for more than 10 years."

Efren Ormaza said he'd been in the restaurant sector for decades as an executive chef and a culinary teacher at a university in Ecuador. He said he was looking for space he could afford to rent in Chattanooga when the couple decided on Frazier Avenue and the name Terra Nostra, which means "our land" in Spanish.

"There was a lot of people moving in the area," Ormaza said. "Everything started to grow big-time."

They had gotten to Chattanooga via his sister who moved to take classes at Covenant College on Lookout Mountain. His parents also relocated and he followed them, Ormaza said.

"I'd been in the profession for a long time," he said, noting he'd gained the capability to start his own restaurant. He added that his wife is a professional pastry chef.

Ormaza, 55, said one son is a dentist and another an executive. He had considered that one of his children might take over the business, but that didn't happen.

"It has been a long journey," he said. "It's time to move on."

The restaurateur said the couple now have grandchildren and they haven't been back to the South American country together since opening the eatery.

"I missed my mother-in-law's 90th birthday because one of us had to stay with the restaurant. It's time to give priority to family and loved ones," he said.

For the past 10 years, he has organized medical missions for people in need through the Penipe Foundation. On each trip, he takes wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, vitamins and nonprescription analgesics for people with arthritis.

Also, two trips ago he met an amputee with no prosthetic leg. After returning to Chattanooga, he found connections who provided a leg and taught him how to make measurements and adjust the prosthesis to gain a good fit for installation. He plans to do more for amputees in Ecuador who can't afford a prosthesis.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.