The Francesca's Restaurants Group has closed its establishment in downtown West Dundee after nearly 18 years.
The Italian restaurant's departure came as a shock to village officials, who said they've been actively discussing potential renovation and expansion plans with the company's leadership team for months.
Francesca's Campagna has been a staple of the village's downtown since it opened in 2000 at 127 W. Main St. The restaurant ceased operations this past weekend, though Village President Chris Nelson said he was unaware of the company's decision to close until he saw a sign in the window Tuesday.
"We were surprised and disappointed," Nelson said. "We felt that the dialogue was open and honest, so it came as a surprise to all of us that this would be the outcome."
West Dundee officials communicated regularly with restaurant leaders since talks about improving the site began in the fall, Nelson said. Possible plans included adding banquet space to the east and creating an outdoor dining area to the south.
The goal was to make the restaurant more functional, Nelson said, especially after the opening of a new Francesca's in Barrington started affecting operations in West Dundee.
Village officials last heard from restaurant leaders last week, when they asked to reschedule a meeting until after the holidays.
Meghan Parra, marketing director for Francesca's, confirmed Tuesday that the West Dundee establishment shut its doors, but did not respond to requests for additional information. Notice of the restaurant's closure also was posted on its Facebook page, which has since been removed.
"We have enjoyed serving the West Dundee community, and we look forward to (continuing) to serve the Northwest suburbs," Parra said. The group also has locations in Arlington Heights, St. Charles, Elmhurst, Naperville, Northbrook and other parts of the Chicago area.
West Dundee officials are unsure how Francesca's closure will affect the future of the building, which is up for sale and in need of repair, Nelson said. But with a major downtown redevelopment underway and several new businesses opening along Main Street, Community Development Director Tim Scott said he's optimistic the village will be able to secure a unique and successful tenant quickly.
"While it's certainly disappointing to see (Francesca's) depart after such a nice long run, it remains an exciting time for downtown," he said. "The effort to seek out a complementary business to potentially fill this void and suit the highly competitive area landscape has already begun."