Elgin's downtown Villa Verone Ristorante has closed so the owner can focus on his location in Geneva.
"After much thought and consideration, we are closing our Elgin location. It's not an easy thing to write, but what is going to be even harder is saying goodbye. So let's not say that word. Thank you for everything," owner Pietro Verone wrote on his Facebook wall late Sunday.
"You made us feel like we were part of a real community. Even though we will continue to support downtown Elgin, we will miss what we had through the restaurant. Thank you for the support, affection and friendship you have given us for the last 5½ years. Love you all!" Verone continued, adding he plans to focus on his Geneva location, 416 Hamilton St.
He did not respond for a request for comment Monday, but in another Facebook posting, Verone scheduled one last "Elgin Person of the Week" for 6 p.m. Thursday even though the doors and kitchen at 13 Douglas Ave. are now closed.
Villa Verone opened in January 2008 after Magdalena's closed on New Year's Eve in 2007. The impending vacancy deals another blow to Elgin, which has been struggling to rejuvenate its downtown.
Deirdre White, executive director of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, said Verone and his restaurant will be sorely missed.
"He's provided jobs. He's provided entertainment. He's always been a big supporter of DNA and downtown Elgin," White said. "It took me by surprise and my heart feels empty because he was such a beloved business owner in Elgin."
White said she had a brief conversation with Verone and she asked him if the DNA or the city failed him in any way. Verone said that was not the case.
Restoring downtown Elgin to its former glory from decades ago has been a challenge for city leaders.
White said downtown is home to shopping, dining and a variety of architecture. DNA has hired a development director to help bring more businesses to the area, and crime is down 4 percent from last year.
"The perception of downtown Elgin is not the reality," White said. "People don't realize that."
Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce President Carol Gieske said she was saddened by news of Verone pulling out of Elgin.
"Pietro and his team offered a wonderful product," she said. "Pietro and his team made an impact on this community. They were great corporate citizens. They were always stepping up to the plate to support the community and nonprofits. It's a loss, there's no doubt about it."