Chooch's Pizzeria closes following co-owner's illness
Chooch's Pizzeria, the only restaurant in downtown Elgin with a patio facing the Fox River, has closed, and the two-story building is up for sale.
Co-owner Mike Butirro, 62, said he decided to close the place at 64 S. Grove Ave. shortly after his brother and co-owner Dan Butirro, 57, had a stroke in November. First, however, he wanted to make sure all his employees got a job elsewhere, which happened last week when both his cooks were told they could start work this week for a Brazilian steakhouse chain, he said.
"Lots of people showed up" for Chooch's last day Saturday, he said. The pizzeria opened in December 2012; Mike Butirro lived upstairs while his brother lived in Schaumburg.
Running Chooch's without his brother was "a nightmare," Mike Butirro said.
Dan worked behind the bar and was in charge of accounting, website and social media, while Mike supervised the kitchen and dining, and did the supply runs. Being the only one at the helm meant long days of staying up until midnight while battling to pay his brother's medical bills and mortgage, Mike Butirro said.
Chooch's was always a family thing, and he never considered getting another business partner, he added.
Dan Butirro is recovering well and plans to move back home soon after living with their 87-year-old mother in Elgin for the last few months, Mike Butirro said.
"He could come back to work, but the doctors said he should stay physically active, so we took that advice," Mike Butirro said. "I will continue helping him and my ma."
The two-story building is listed for sale at $649,500, and "a couple of folks are going back and forth" regarding their interest in buying, Mike Butirro said.
After it's sold, he'll move in with his mother -- who suffered a fall recently -- and possibly get part-time work, he said. He also plans to travel to Belize, where he owns property, and work on helping organize a mission trip there for the Judson University softball team, he said.
Chooch's employed more than a dozen people in summertime, and many found other jobs thanks to the Butirros' connections in Elgin, Mike Butirro said.
One employee will be a receptionist at the Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, another found work at Dog's Paw Brewing in Elgin and others at the Grand Victoria Casino, he said.
"Being part of the community when you're going through something like this, everybody jumps on board. It's like, 'What do you need?'" he said. "Working with the city has been great. They are right there for you, no matter if you're opening or closing."