Weeks after an iconic Lombard grocery store abruptly closed, village officials still are seeking answers about what will happen to the now-shuttered building.
For decades, Mr. Z's Supermarket at 401 S. Main St. had been touted as a Lombard success story. The well-known business had received multiple awards from the village and its owners were praised for their community involvement.
Contact information ( * required )
Then on Sept. 27, Mr. Z's closed its doors for the final time.
Few knew the closing was coming, but Village President Keith Giagnorio said residents suspected for months something was wrong because the store's shelves weren't being restocked.
Co-owner Steve Zeidler didn't say anything to customers about the situation. When the end came, there wasn't an announcement. There wasn't a going-out-of-business sale. And employees weren't notified until the last day.
"It hit everybody pretty hard," Giagnorio said.
Attempts to contact Zeidler on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Yvonne Invergo, executive director of the Lombard Chamber of Commerce, said many people were disappointed.
"It's always sad when a business closes," she said. "It's especially sad when the business has been around and has been such a big part of the community for so many years."
Mr. Z's had come a long way from humble beginnings. Herman and Clara Zeidler opened their first grocery store in Chicago in 1923. The family moved the business to Elmhurst in 1933.
Then in 1967, the Zeidler family opened their second store at 727 S. Main St. in Lombard. They operated both stores for nine years, closing the Elmhurst store when they moved to the 401 S. Main St. building in 1976.
The Zeidlers helped local nonprofit groups in various ways, including selling tickets for events and offering space in the store's parking lot for carwashes and tree sales.
Village Trustee Mike Fugiel, who volunteers with the Rotary Club, said he was planning to order steaks from Mr. Z's for a Rotary event. He said the support the business provided to the community will be missed.
Mr. Z's also filled a niche because there aren't any other grocery stores on Lombard's north side. Now Fugiel says he's concerned about what will happen to the building.
"You don't want it to go to blight," Fugiel said. "Hopefully, they come up with something that's going to work for the community."
To learn what the future might hold for the site, Giagnorio is scheduled to meet Tuesday with some members of the Zeidler family.
"We'd just like to see if they're planning on reorganizing and reopening," Giagnorio said, "or if they have plans to bring a different grocer in there. But we would really like to get something going there."
If Mr. Z's is gone forever, village officials say they eventually would like to see another grocery store occupy the building.
"We're ready to work with the current owners or any prospective owners to make that a reality," Community Development Director Bill Heniff said.
When asked whether a grocery store could succeed at the Mr. Z's site, Heniff said: "I think the residents of the village of Lombard believe it's a viable location."
However, Giagnorio acknowledges there isn't much the village can do except wait and see what the Zeidler family decides.
"We're trying our hardest to find out what's going on exactly," he said, "and move forward from there."