The Cosi hearth will fire up for the last time this weekend.

Cosi, the soup, salad and sandwich restaurant on Elm Street near Ivy Noodle and Bulldog Burrito, will close for good this Sunday. At a table in the subdued and quiet dining area, General Manager Ben Harrison said the business has been hit by economic problems and is struggling with higher bills and a drop in customers.

“Our foot business has been down a great deal, but we’ve still been seeing the Yale students come in, just not as many as before,” Harrison said.

Cosi owners informed the employees early last week that the restaurant would be closing its doors. Some of the 15 employees said they are already trying to find new jobs.

Helen Loomas, who has been working at Cosi for more than two years, said she has noticed the drop in customers, and also in Yale students.

“We were preparing to have a rush when all the students came back after summer, but it never really picked up,” Loomas said.

The owner of neighboring Bulldog Burrito, Jason Congdon said the Broadway District is a tight-knit community and that Cosi will be missed. Congdon said that since Bulldog Burrito moved in about five years ago, Cosi has been a good neighbor.

“Cosi’s problems are problems we’re all going through,” Congdon said. “These are tough times.”

Harrison cited the high rent as a reason why it had been difficult for Cosi to stay in business. Although Cosi just completed a renovation of the interior this past year, Loomas said the upstairs portion of the restaurant is rarely used anymore and just sits empty.

Harrison was unable to comment on what business would occupy Cosi’s location once it closed. But the owner of Cosi will be opening a new restaurant and bar on Fifth Street, near Southern Connecticut State University.

Most students interviewed said they were unaware that Cosi was closing this week. Pierson students, who are closest in proximity to the eatery, especially said they will miss the restaurant.

“Cosi is convenient, but there are so many options out there,” Jon Wu ’09 said. “Even though Cosi has good sandwiches, so do all the rest of the shops in town.”

Another Piersonite, Dan Kanter ’09, called the closing “outrageous.” But he mentioned that though he will miss his favorite Cosi tuna melts, he can easily go to Gourmet Heaven for the same thing.

About a dozen other students also said they were indifferent toward the closing.

“It’s not shocking because if the food was really that good, people would eat there and they would not go out of business,” Prerna Sekhri ’10 said.

There are currently more than 100 Cosi restaurants across the country.

—Avinash Chak contributed reporting.