Wednesday's opening of Elgin's Super Walmart has been highly anticipated by many members of the community and by at least one local business owner, who has viewed it as a light at the end of the tunnel.
Nick Sarillo sent a heartfelt plea to 16,000 Nick's Pizza and Pub customers Sept. 27 outlining his financial troubles -- an email that quickly went viral. Sarillo called on the community to support his business as it ran into serious trouble "about four weeks short of the finish line."
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That finish line is the delayed opening of the Super Walmart, just across the road from him. He figured carry-over business from Walmart would help sustain him.
Walmart's opening day is here and Nick's doors are still open. The email launched a groundswell of community support that doubled Nick's business the week after it was sent out. Both the Elgin and Crystal Lake locations saw 45 percent more business the following week and continue to see a 25-percent increase now.
"That has turned out to be a $50,000 email," Sarillo said.
While he is cautious, saying the business isn't totally out of the woods, Sarillo acknowledged the outpouring of support has allowed Nick's to catch up on many of its bills. At the time of this writing, Nick's website thanks the community for helping the business reach 70 percent of its goal.
Sue Sobieski and her 10-year-old daughter, Grace, ate at the Elgin Nick's Monday night. Sobieski received Sarillo's email from several different people and passed it along to her Wasco Girls Fast Pitch Listserv, helping Sarillo's message reach a little bit further.
Knowing the business was having a hard time made the Sobieskis' dinner decision easy.
"Everybody can relate to someone laying it on the line," Sobieski said. "Humility is something that, nowadays, there's so little of. For somebody to lay it all out there and say I've done all I can do, it pulls at your heartstrings."
Jeff Turner joined a group of businessmen in encouraging customer's of In The Neighborhood Deli in downtown Elgin to go to Nick's.
Turner said he sent an email to more than 800 contacts and also posted a message on Facebook asking his friends and customers to help Sarillo, "who has helped out so many himself."
"It worked," Turner said. "It showed a community coming together to save a great guy and a great business."
The owners of Chicago Prime Steakhouse in Schaumburg and Toom Toom Thai restaurant in Elgin sent similar messages to their customers and several salons even offered discounts to customers who brought in receipts from Nick's.
Sarillo's business model is one that focuses on community. For 16 years he has donated 5 percent of profits to community causes; the business hosts countless fundraisers for organizations throughout the year.
Sarillo said it's those ethics that struck a chord with local residents.
"These guests are sending a message to the country," Sarillo said. "This is how we're going to protest greed: support a business that has given back to the community."
Since his email's success, Sarillo has become a local celebrity, appearing on NBC Nightly News, CLTV and at various conferences, including the Elgin Area Chamber's Small Business Summit.
Sarillo is keeping his fingers crossed for a strong finish to the year, but with Walmart's opening he can say at least the near-term crisis has been averted.