'I really miss it already': Stanley's restaurant closes in West Dundee
An hour after turning over the keys to his shuttered West Dundee restaurant, Scott Stanley already was feeling sentimental.
Opening a second dining establishment last fall was a new adventure for the South Elgin native, who has operated Stanley's Restaurant & Ale House in his hometown for eight years. He wanted to expand his business and grow his customer base in the Fox Valley, he said, but the sales at the West Dundee restaurant were never what he hoped they would be.
Stanley adjusted the menu and tried new tactics to get people in the door at 629 S. Eighth St. But after about seven months, he decided to shut down Stanley's Restaurant & Tavern and focus on his flagship location.
"It was a fun ride here ... but I had to make a decision," Stanley said. "I need to take care of what we've done so well."
The restaurant officially closed June 3. By the time Stanley returned the keys to his landlord Friday morning, he said, several longtime customers and community members had reached out to express their condolences.
"They knew how important it was to us," he said. "I really miss it already."
Property owner Tom Roeser bought the empty building during a "very troubled economic time" in hopes of getting it filled. Despite its high visibility and accessibility along Route 31, he said, he's struggled to maintain an operator.
Not long after the Prohibition-themed Bootleggers Kitchen and Pub ceased operations, a group of investors sought to buy the newly renovated building in 2016. When they failed, Roeser said, he had to go through a two-year foreclosure process to acquire the building again.
Roeser hoped Stanley would have more success than previous tenants, he said, though he recognizes the challenge of running multiple operations.
"He was hardworking and experienced," Roeser said, "but he does have another restaurant that he's got to make sure survives."
Stanley also pointed to the restaurant's decision to add video gambling machines last month, which was met with some backlash from the community. Though it's hard to say whether that caused a recent decline in business, he said, the past few weeks were the tipping point.
"Maybe I was wrong to step out of my comfort zone," Stanley said. "Maybe South Elgin is where we need to stay."
Roeser now is on the lookout for a new operator who he believes would fit well into the community. The West Dundee building contains a complete turnkey restaurant and is in great shape for the next tenant, he said.
"I still think it's something viable for the town," Roeser said.