La Majada closes restaurant after 38 years

Owner says River Forest location will stay open

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The year was 1976 and the Haggar family, who had emigrated from Mexico a few years earlier, opened their first restaurant, La Majada, at 226 Harrison St. 

The family-run Mexican food establishment closed its doors for good, Monday night, but will continue to operate its satellite location in River Forest, said co-owner Jesse Haggar, 60.

In a telephone interview, Haggar thanked restaurant patrons for supporting the business for so many years.

"We just want to let people know that we don't want to close the doors without telling them we appreciate all their support for 38 years and a week," he said.

Haggar said running the business, which he co-owned with his brother, Hector, 58, was made more difficult by recent personal setbacks in his family. Haggar said his older sister, Rosa Gomez ,died in November 2012, and his mother, Juanita Haggar, died in March 2013.

"She was really overwhelmed by losing her kid and at 93 years of age, she just couldn't handle it," Haggar said.

Trouble with the village over keeping their liquor license after the death of his mother and inability to hold parties and events at the location also made it more difficult to keep the business afloat.

"Oak Park, I'm sorry to say, has really never been very business-friendly," said Haggar, who hopes new leadership on the village board will create a more welcoming environment for small business owners.

"I think the last thing Oak Park needs is another empty place on Harrison," he said.

Contact:
Email: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

65 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Taxi  

Posted: May 8th, 2014 11:14 AM

If you want affluent residents to dine in your establishment, you must pay the schools what they need/want so that said residents will move into OP. Its a cycle that all must pay.

E Fertik from Oak Park  

Posted: May 8th, 2014 8:54 AM

Maybe paying $34,000 a year in property taxes was part of the problem. Since schools take nearly 2/3 of tax money, it is crazy to make non-residential real estate pay over twice the taxes that residential real estate does.

Simply Astounded from Oak Park   

Posted: May 7th, 2014 1:53 PM

Surely we can solve this problem by voting to raise our own property taxes again.

Dan H  

Posted: May 7th, 2014 12:51 PM

I'd also like to say "Thank You" to the owners and staff - over the years you made us feel as though we were family - an aspect of this wonderful place that is irreplaceable. And to those that think the issue was lack of patrons, you might ask yourself why they had could not tend to things like redecorating or marketing. The way they were treated by the village was downright criminal. Despite being taxed exorbitantly, I guess there was not enough in it for OP. 38 years meant nothing to them.

Dan H  

Posted: May 7th, 2014 12:38 PM

We are really upset to see it go. I really don't understand some of the comments - the food has been the same quality since the first time we stepped foot in the restaurant 15 years ago. It is not gourmet but it also wasn't overpriced b/s posing as gourmet like the place across the street. The fajitas and margaritas were the best I've ever had and I've had a lot. Luckily, LM Express lives on but it will be difficult to match the ambiance and service provided with the original.

Linda Puleo from Oak Park il  

Posted: May 6th, 2014 10:03 PM

My parents owned Murphy's off the mall in Oak Park in the early 80's I have fond memories of this loving establishment. Hector and Jesse their mother made great advances. The very first liquor license in oak park. A place I personally could go to feel at home. The most loving atmosphere. I thank them for all they have done. God bless. Linda Puleo P.s . Chocolate habenero lovers

9/11 Truther  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 5:06 PM

CAN YOU SAY WIG SHOP!!!

Curious from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 4:46 PM

Where were all these people the last 5 years? Every time I was in there it was pretty empty. You can try to blame it on the village all you want, but do you think the restaurant would be closing if it was doing well? I went there since I was a kid and am sad to see it close, but these things happen. A restaurant open for 38 years is very impressive - I wish the family the best -

Getting a grip  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 4:28 PM

As a relative newcomer (moved here in at the end of the last century), I feel much nostalgia for the nostalgia these families are sharing. Our memories of "La Malada" were nothing like the ones shared here, and I'm sorry they weren't. I long for a cozy neighborhood restuarant we can go to to celebrate family times small and large. Maybe La Quebrada will open an outpost here?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 3:58 PM

Shame on Oak Park for a restaurant closing after 38 YEARS. Oh, get?a? grip.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 3:13 PM

Of all the things Oak Park should be shamed about, this is not one of them

Tax  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 1:57 PM

What are property taxes for the OP bldg(s)?

Entrepeneurial Spirit from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 1:43 PM

This would be a great location for a liquor store/payday loans place.

Susan Kipley from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 1:10 PM

Shame, Oak Park! Shame on you!!

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 12:23 PM

@Nancy, what exactly is the Board supposed to do to "help these businesses survive?" Teach them out to run a business that people actually want to patronize? Teach them how to take responsibility for their own success and not play the blame game?//Maybe you didn't read all these comments first? I know, weird that you have to read the comments section to get the full story these days, but there you have it.

Mike T. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 11:53 AM

This is indeed very sad news. La Majada opened the year I was born, and my mother started taking me there from the time I was a toddler. I continued to frequent the restaurant as Hector and Jesse watched me grow up. They were always very welcoming. It was a home away from home for me. The food did go downhill over the past few years, but it doesn't diminish my many fond memories. A comfortable place to dine and relax. Sometimes nostalgia means more than trendiness, people!

Rick Springfield  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 10:43 AM

I agree that Oak Park has some work to do on attracting business, but as I said before, this place was not competing. Crappy food aside, just look at it. Physically. The building is completely dated. Just judging from the exterior, if I was visiting from out of town, I would never even think about going in there. It's dark, dingy, uninviting. Looks like the Regal Beagle from Three's Company. Let it die, and then get the village to do REAL WORK to get someone to take it's place.

Mike Ryan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 9:54 AM

Thank you to Hector and Jesse and the entire Haggar family for providing the Ryans with so many years of good meals, good margaritas, great salsa and chips and many many fond memories. We have been going to La Majada's since it first opened when it was just one small room and BYOB and will miss it greatly.

Query from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 9:10 AM

What was the problem with the liquor license? No bar is the quickest way to kill a restaurant.

Paul from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 8:10 AM

I'm sad to see another business leave the Harrison St. area, since I'm a neighbor, but Harrison St. isn't that much different than the OP side of North Ave. or Roosevelt Rd. All three areas are filled with empty storefronts. I'm sure taxes have some role to play in why new businesses don't move into these empty places, but so does the way Oak Parkers shop these days. OP businesses aren't just dealing with Village Hall -- they are dealing with the Internet, and Costco, and WalMart.

Nancy Dougherty  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 7:46 AM

What are we doing wrong here? This should be the first and topmost question on the Oak Park Board. You have failed all of us. What has happened to all the store fronts and businesses? Our infrastructure has collapsed and it's your fault. Where's La Majada? Where are the car dealerships? Why haven't you stepped in to help these businesses survive? Is it laziness? Or is someone lining their pockets? There's no sound reason for this and I am beyond disappointed.

Mary Jp Schuler from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 7:02 AM

Dear Jesse & Hector, even though you are closing Harrison Street, the hundreds of family memories accumulated in your restaurant over the decades will remain in our hearts. We will miss the warm vibe of your business and we wish you the very best. Fondly, the Hall and Schuler Families

Rick Springfield   

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 11:35 PM

Seriously. The food may have been ok at some point, but it hasn't even been average for a long time. It's called natural selection. This place didn't deserve to survive.

Jim Kelly from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 10:29 PM

The good news is that Harrison St. still has an outstanding restaurant -- Trattoria 225. Re: La Majada, It's always sad to see a family business close, but I suspect there were many unstated additional reasons for this business closing. We were big fans for many years, but each time they expanded the food quality deteriorated and there were far better options locally for Mexican food.

Doug from Minneapolis  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 9:02 PM

Wow, heartbreaking news. my family spent many a night there growing up. A visit to Oak Park would not be complete with a visit to our haunt/ A sad day indeed.

Nancy Van Wieren from Elgin, Il  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 8:52 PM

From all of the Van Wieren family you were a wonderful place to have dinner, you were there when our Dad died(Ken) and my daughter got to grow up going out to dinner with us. I'm sorry about your sister and your Mom, your Mom was such a sweetheart Thank you for many fond memories-Nancy

Maureen  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 8:43 PM

Remember going there when it first opened. It then grew and grew. Loyal employees. Thank you Haggar family for bringing your business to Oak Park. We have many good memories there. Look forward to seeing you at the River Forest location. Have you thought of doing a carry out?

Deborah Randall from New Lenox  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 7:34 PM

My family started going here when my little sister was a baby. It was a favorite of all 5 or us kids. I still remember my favorite dish Bonata Combinada Grande. I regret not having taken my 5 kids up there, at least I was able to introduce my husband and couple of my kids. We also loved when the guitar players would come and play softly in our ears, so much fun!

No tacos for me!  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 7:13 PM

Curious if any of you posters were in the restaurant several years back during a remodel / expansion project. I was. A very large rat sashayed across the middle of the restaurant and crossed paths with Juanita at the exact moment she presented us with our dinner bill. I know,I know...hard to believe. Trust me, I couldn't make this up. You can be certain that I called the Health Department faster than you can say WTF!! Wonder if the inspectors ever showed up? In Oak Park? Doubtful.

Ridgeland Ave. Resident from Oak Park   

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 5:49 PM

As a neighbor of the Harrison Street Arts District, I have to say that I'd LOVE to see more retail momentum, but I can absolutely understand why both entrepreneurs AND the Village might be reluctant to pour serious effort into the District. We've been wondering for 10 years what the Ike "expansion" is going to look like. Until concrete plans are in place, significant Village investment seems unwise &/or irresponsible.

Seward G.  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 5:40 PM

Oh Noooooo! Next thing you know the Klerenomos family will be gone and there'll be no good family businesses on Harrison! Most family businesses run their course. Worst reviews of 20 Mexican restaurants in OP, RF, Berwyn. Twas the food, not Village Hall policies.

Lori REM  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 4:10 PM

Though I'm sorry for everyone's loss as expressed in most of these comments, went there once about 12 years ago and we thought it was some of the worst food we'd ever had.

Rick from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 3:02 PM

To be completely honest I thought this place closed a year ago. The Arts District seems like its nothing more than Vals, Brown Elephant, and Buzz Cafe. The city and the community need to take action after running this neighborhood dry,

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 2:14 PM

La Majada was very community minded, I personally attended events for school referendums, local candidates, and community groups. As for the reference to being business friendly, as a Trustee I received complaints from neighbors related to after hour parties, and the Village had to take action to curb late night/early morning disorderly conduct. I know the owners were not pleased about the Village curbing these activities.

OP Res 253 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 2:05 PM

"We need green energy. We can't abide an e-cig store. Create more low-income housing. Provide more subsidies. Lavish up the library. Get our old people a pool." Wow, a restaurant failed, damn Board. Yes, cutting red tape will going a little way, cutting tax will go a long way. But for a restaurant to succeed they need to attract customers with a good meal for the money. Clearly that wasn't happening here.

Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 1:18 PM

As a business owner on Harrison Street I am very sad to see La Majada close it's doors. Harrison Street and the Arts District need action from our "Business Friendly President" and the other members of the board NOW! Harrison Street has been neglected as a business district since the day we opened our doors. Good luck Jessie and Hector!

Juli Z. from Riverside  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 1:06 PM

I do not know the family personally but I am glad to say they do contribute to others. I attended a dinner approximately three years ago where all Volunteers of St. Edumund's were thanked for their annual service. La Majada provided the food.

Mary from Harvey St. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 12:14 PM

When La Majada first opened, I would walk down and pick up guacamole and chips and pay for it through the window from the kitchen.... soon it was a mainstay for my family and neighbors. Mama, Rosa, (God Bless) Jessie and Hector, the Wheeler family will be forever grateful for the memories we have shared at La Majada over the 38 years.

David  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 11:38 AM

Jesse was never very community friendly. Having one of the larger restaurants, he never supported any of the local organizations, festivals or events. Perhaps OP wasn't business friendly, but Jesse you weren't community friendly. Just take take take and never give anything back. Good riddance.

Matt  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 11:00 AM

Had many a family party here and will continue to visit the River Forest location. Sorry to see you go, good luck.

Bill from Peterman  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 10:47 AM

Our family first ate at LaMajada when it was just a corner restaurant with a few tables. We watched it grow and thrive. My son-in-law, who works for a Mexican restaurant supplier, always stopped in LaMajada when he was in town. He said it was the best Mexican food anywhere. We will miss it - it was our go to spot on New Years Eve for years.

Suzanne R. from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 10:16 AM

Look on the bright side: Now another business can bring new energy, joining the modern, friendly, artistic and inspired cuisine of Trattoria 225. On the negative: Oak Park Government is business unfriendly. I know folks who have tried and have opened business here and there are too many obstacles. We really hope that HARRISON can be saved as a walkable street. Goodbye, La Majada---many memories.

Carolyn Cullen from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 9:00 AM

So sorry we didn't have mot notice, to get in a farewell meal. We've enjoyed it for many years and are sorry for the family's troubles.

RF Dan  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 8:45 AM

Oak Park government did not put this restaurant out of business. A lack of customers did. How many of the people posting here ate at LaMajada this year. I did, and am not surprised they're no longer in business.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 8:04 AM

Read Dan Haley's opinion piece on Harrison St. Good article and makes a lot of sense.

Marty from River Forest  

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 7:48 AM

If my memory serves me correct, they originally opened their business on Madison St. in Oak Park. After a few short years they moved to Harrison St. The last few years their quality of food had really gone down. We use to frequent the restaurant quite often but stopped going because of the inferior food.

Johnny Johnson  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 11:33 PM

Let's be honest, when the Eisenhower is expanded, Harrison Street is going to become on onramp. Say bye bye to your precious little arts district thanks to dandy Don Harmon

Allan Day from Williston, VT  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 10:23 PM

I am saddened to hear this news. I began the Muse Piano Workshop at 225 Harrison the same year the Haggars moved to Harrison Street. Jesse and his staff were like family to us and we shared many a meal there. Even though I've been gone from the area for 23 years, it seems like the end of an era. I wish them all the best.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 10:07 PM

Anan and the board ran on changing things around here and it seems to be the same old song! The Arts District is so neglected. Words are of little use. Actions speak louder. Step it up please, Oak Parker,s including me are tired of the BS. Penzys now La Majada. Soon we will not care because there will be nothing left anyway! Where is that Economic Development committee? LOL

Elizabeth Rexford from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 10:03 PM

Oh, I am so sorry and actually shocked about this news! Just recently, I met friends there and we had the best time! It was always such a warm and cozy place in our neighborhood. Thanks for many great years, Jessie! I wish the Village of Oak Park could be more business friendly.

David from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 9:35 PM

This is very disappointing news. My parents began eating at La Majada soon after it opened, and began taking me there almost immediately after I was born. Despite seeing how empty it was the last few times I was there, I hoped this wasn't coming, because it's hard to imagine OP without La Majada. Bad for the community, bad for Harrison, bad for the Hagars and bad for all of the people who loved eating there. Thanks to Jessie, Hector, and all the employees for a lifetime (literally) of memories.

Sue and Nick Bridge from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 8:53 PM

Dear Jessie and Hector, Oak Park feels a good deal less like home for the Bridge family tonight. Your dedication and loyalty to our village, your warm friendship, and your wonderful food have enriched our lives for the past 38 years. We have celebrated births, anniversaries, retirements, and countless other joyous occasions at La Majada with our friends who share our sadness over your closing. Please know how much pleasure your family has brought to ours and how deeply you will be missed.

eulogy   

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 8:43 PM

Thank you, Haggar family, for your 38 years of hospitality, your dedication and work ethic, your perseverance, and cultural gifts. Your family gave Oak Park so much. Very sorry to hear about your losses. You will be missed.

Unfortunately  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 8:26 PM

Hmm, in the same paper we read about OPRF debating between $20 million and $70 million for one swimming pool AND another business closing it's doors (translated: they couldn't sell it to any one). Do you think that "local businesses" might have better opportunity to survive if their property taxes weren't at nose-bleed levels? How's that Noll/Gallagher/VOP plan of spending $721,000 PER YEAR coming along? Perhaps the property taxes of $34,000 didn't help? But $50 million for a high school pool?

South OP from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 8:20 PM

This is very sad news for so many. Oak Park business development team has another epic failure to add to their unending list. Growth is realized ONLY on Lake Street, well growth by Village standards. I'm sorry to see this news.

DeJordy  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 7:18 PM

Congratulations, Oak Park. You have another vacant property to the portfolio. The important thing is to enforce those rules.

Roberta Fruth  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 7:01 PM

Oh my goodness!! What a loss for Harrison Street but will be greatly missed by our family. Many, many memories. Sorry to see them go.

sara from bellingham  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 6:20 PM

It is truly sad. I can't imagine Oak Park without this place. Poor Oak Parkers. always suffering at the hands of their inept government.

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 6:17 PM

"...and served good food which, once, it did." A gratuitous insult on the way out the door. Always a gentleman, Mr. Hammond.

South Oak Parker  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 5:55 PM

Oh no! Our family will really miss La Majada. We have taken our kids there since they were toddlers and this was their absolute favorite (the excellent margaritas didn't hurt either.) I'm sorry to hear of the family's losses, as well.

Richard Nitzsche from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 5:39 PM

Sad news indeed, as this La Majada was a favorite neighborhood destination, within easy walking distance of home. Apparently circumstances were too much to continue, but I'm unhappy to hear that our village government did little to keep another business and building on Harrison from going dark. The Arts District requires decisive action now! Best wishes to the Haggar family and I hope to get my enchiladas de mole fix in River Forest soon.

Paul from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 5:24 PM

I'm sorry to hear about La Majada's closing. I have fond memories of going there when I was a student at Irving for lunch to celebrate the end of the year in Spanish class. It was an exciting outing to go over there.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 5:21 PM

Sorry to see this place close. Now another empty building in this area!! This is just awful and it does not seem to be getting any better. Again, we hear how Oak Park is not the place to do business. See all these changes and promises said by the village board and do not see much in the way of anything getting better with this town or the Arts District. Very disappointing.

Janice Rubin from Oak park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 5:14 PM

I don't think village hall knows where Harrison Street is. good luck-fond memories of your mom greeting people.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 22nd, 2014 4:22 PM

Sorry to see it go, because it was such an important place for our family when we first moved to Oak Park, lived nearby, and needed a restaurant that was kid-friendly and served good food which, once, it did.

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