Carpentersville's Masi's Pizza to close after 67 years
Masi's Pizza and Catering has served as a staple of the Dundee-area community for 67 years.
It's where families ordered dinner religiously, where local residents worked, where couples recall going on first dates decades ago.
So when owners announced the Carpentersville pizzeria would permanently close this month amid the coronavirus pandemic, personal stories and emotional messages began flooding in from customers devastated to see it go.
"I've had people break down and just start crying when they've heard," said co-owner Bret Mathis, who took over the business about 15 years ago. "The responses we've been getting online, the calls we've been getting, the people that come in to say their last goodbyes has been overwhelming."
Amid life changes, Mathis and his business partner, Dana Cortese, put the restaurant up for sale in February, with plans to keep the doors open until new ownership could take the helm. They had developed a strong connection with the community during the last several years, Mathis said, and business was doing well.
But catering operations came to a halt when the COVID-19 crisis hit, cutting off the restaurant's primary revenue source. Cookouts, graduation parties, festivals and other major events have been postponed or canceled, he said, and the pizzeria's delivery and takeout services are not enough to make up the difference.
"When you take 60% of a person's business away, how long are they going to be able to survive?" Mathis said. "Trust me, I'd love to keep it open. But I don't have the answers to the questions of, 'When are we going to be able to start gathering again?'"
The pizzeria first opened in 1953 as part of a downtown West Dundee bowling alley owned by the Masi family, longtime residents of the area. The business quickly became a community hot spot that the late Jim Masi -- known as "Mr. Dundee" -- would eventually call "the Cheers of its time," referring to the popular '80s sitcom.
After the Masi family sold it in the 1980s, the business changed hands two more times before Mathis signed on as a silent partner, though he quickly became more visible within the company. At that point, the pizzeria and catering company had moved to its current home within a Carpentersville strip mall at 222 N. Western Ave.
Cortese joined the venture about nine years ago and has done "an awesome job" working with customers on the catering side, Mathis said. Throughout the years, they have worked closely with churches and community organizations, participated in fundraisers, donated pizzas to special causes and formed personal connections with residents.
Masi's Pizza is expected to close June 27, Mathis said, though he hopes a new owner steps up to purchase it before then.
"It's very sad. I didn't want it to close on my watch," he said. "We both got to know a lot of our customers very well. ... That's the personal stuff you're going to miss."