Businesses on two high-profile corners in Elmhurst, and one downtown lunch spot, have all closed in recent months, causing customers to wonder, "What is going on behind the papered-up windows and the empty storefronts?" While some patrons will have to look for new favorite places to get a bite to eat, the news is not all bad.
A visit last week to Fontano's, 113 W. First St., revealed that the store was empty except for kitchen equipment. A sign on the front windows indicated the store is for lease, and it gave a phone number for Phillips Martin Real Estate.
Fontano's owner Kevin O'Keeffe said he had to close the shop because of the economy and the fact that more people are bringing their lunches to work and not eating out.
“I had to cut my losses,” he said, adding that closing the business affected him emotionally as well as monetarily. He estimated that he lost about $100,000 on the store.
O'Keeffe said the owners of the Fontano's franchise were looking into buying the store back and keeping it open. But in order to resume business, the DuPage County Health Department said another bathroom needed to be installed to meet codes established in the Americans with Disabilities Act. This, O'Keeffe said, was not possible within current footprint of the store.
O'Keeffe said that he loved owning the business and his customers were “incredible” and “loyal,” with some coming in two or three times each week.
At Good Earth Market, 555 S. York Road, windows on the main building are papered over, but a sign on York Road reads “Greenhouse open weekends.”
Bill Hogan with Good Earth confirmed that the greenhouse is now open weekends, and it will be open daily beginning the first Monday after Easter. In addition, he said the retail area will open around May 25. Currently, Hogan said, workers are expanding the store's cafe and deli area to separate it from the retail area.
Kopper Kitchen is quiet amid the constant flow of traffic at the corner of St. Charles Road and Route 83. The main customer entrance is boarded up, and a “For Lease” sign hangs on a few windows.
Tessa Zemgulys of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce and Industry said late last week that the restaurant's owner recently died, and the family is contemplating what to do with the property.
Across the street from Kopper Kitchen, shoppers may wonder if they have traveled back in time.
The Sears Essentials store has once again become a K-Mart. Mayor Pete DiCianni told the City Council Monday night that the new store is projected to generate up to $15 million in sales each year and bring about 100 jobs to the city.