Editorial: The sad loss of landmark suburban businesses

  • Robin Morrissey, right, with longtime friend and employee Vicki Schwarz, is closing Sportsmans Barber Shop in Winfield after owning it for 36 years.

      Robin Morrissey, right, with longtime friend and employee Vicki Schwarz, is closing Sportsmans Barber Shop in Winfield after owning it for 36 years. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 6/24/2020 8:31 AM

Throughout the suburbs stand longtime pizza joints, greasy spoon diners and small shops that are a big part of the fabric of communities.

For decades, they've cut hair, been lunchtime hangouts for high school kids, the go-to places for an inexpensive family meal. They've catered your kids' graduation parties, sponsored youth sports teams and were there to donate meals for fundraising events. They provided jobs for teens and adults. It's where we feel at home because the owner knows the customers by name.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We all have our favorites.

That's why it is so sad to see places like Nikko's in Arlington Heights, Sportsmans Barber Shop in Winfield and others closing their doors amid the ongoing economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like lost jobs, and canceled festivals and graduation ceremonies, they are part of the virus's collateral damage.

"I haven't started the waterworks yet," Robin Morrissey, who has owned Sportsmans for 36 years, told our Kevin Schmit. "But I have a feeling as we get closer, there will be some. I hope no one makes fun of me for being a crybaby."

Sportsmans, which has been in business for more than 40 years, will close at the end of June. Morrissey accepted an offer in March to sell the property to the village. When the pandemic struck, she was forced to close until Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois in late May. She enjoyed her brief taste of retirement and announced plans to close at the same time she reopened, setting off a month of farewells.

That fate has been shared by some other suburban favorites as the virus and stay-at-home orders have decimated sales this spring.

Nikko's, known for its gyros, burgers and hot dogs and as a hangout for Hersey High School kids for more than 30 years, closed this month. It will be replaced by an upscale Korean barbecue restaurant. Nikko's owner Young Song said business was "OK" until the pandemic hit and forced him to retire. Deerfields Bakery closed its Schaumburg location after 20 years. The owners said they were unable to sustain operations in the current economy.

But amid the sad losses, this has also been a time that's shown the fighting spirit of suburban business. Masi's Pizza and Catering in Carpentersville was set to close June 27 after more than 60 years in the Dundee area but co-owner Bret Mathis has found a buyer and the landmark eatery will live on. A handful of entrepreneurs are opening new restaurants. Scratchboard Kitchen in Arlington Heights, Smokin' BBQ in Mundelein and Hale Street Cantina in Wheaton are part of that courageous group.

Business closings hurt communities. They are especially emotional when they involve iconic landmarks, when their long histories and deep roots are suddenly replaced by empty storefronts and irreplaceable memories. We can't help but lament their loss.

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