By Anna Lothson
It was all in the name: The Perfect Dinner.
But Karen Gruber's vision to preserve the concept of a homemade, sit-down family dinner fell on hard times in mid-2008, much like other dining establishments. At the end of December 2012, the doors shut and Gruber announced that Perfect Dinner is closed for good.
"I expected some sort of rebound so I kept hanging on," she said. "I was thinking that we might be able to rebuild, but at some point you just have to cut the losses and move on."
She said when the economy dipped, so did her everyday customers who looked to her establishment as a substitute for their own kitchens. That particular business, she said, was the "bread and butter" of Perfect Dinner. Gift-giving and special occasion-ordering remained constant, but the rest took a hit when people cut back on food expenses.
Now the space sits vacant, except for the kitchen equipment, which Gruber said will likely come with the lease.
The Perfect Dinner opened in 2003. As a busy working mom who wanted to prepare nice dinners for her family, Gruber felt compelled to launch the business. She said it was the type of food you wanted to cook if and when time permitted.
With the business booming going into 2008, she opened a second location in Park Ridge. At mid-year, the second location failed and her original spot also suffered.
"It was a personal mission of mine and I'm deeply regretful," Gruber said. "I did everything possible to keep it going."
On Perfect Dinner's website, she wrote a letter to her customers explaining the closing and sharing her warm thoughts for the community. She mentions in the letter that she is looking for a local restaurant to help honor a portion of any outstanding gift accounts and certificates.
"This decision to close is difficult for me since I have been personally guided by the family-dinner mission for a very long time," Gruber wrote. "But I know the mission is bigger than this particular business and — if individually embraced — can certainly survive its closing."