Without so much as a sign in the window to announce its closure, Geppetto’s Pizza & Pasta, 113 N. Oak Park Ave., quietly closed up shop for good Feb. 12.
Once an Oak Park favorite, the restaurant, which opened in 1983, has had a harder time attracting customers in recent years. For that reason, Geppetto’s owner Oleg Vachenko opted to cease operations, according Geri McLauchlan, who owns the building.
“He’s been losing money for months and he decided to close his doors,” McLauchlan. “He implied to us that he’s getting out of the [restaurant] business.”
Vachenko did not respond to Wednesday Journal’s requests for comment.
In McLauchlan’s opinion, Geppetto’s low prices combined with the changing restaurant industry contributed to the lowered profits.
“The restaurant business is totally changing, and I don’t think he was charging enough,” she said. “He just got tired of owning a restaurant, so he decided to move on.”
McLauchlan and her husband purchased the building almost two years ago and put in a lot of effort to refurbish it, putting in a new roof, gutters, grease traps, water heaters, air conditioning and heating. They also replaced the wastepipes and renovated the four apartments above Geppetto’s.
“We really put our heart and soul into the building,” she said. “We weren’t afraid to spend the money to fix things up for whomever.”
In an effort to boost Geppetto’s business, she and her husband brought in an architect to draw up plans for outdoor seating, so Vachenko could apply for a permit from the village.
“He never followed up on that,” McLauchlan said. “We were trying to help him to be successful.”
However, McLauchlan isn’t bitter.
“We’re sorry to lose him but sometimes you’ve gotta just move on. Things fall apart so you can put them back together better,” she said. “My husband and I wish him well.”
McLauchlan would like to see another restaurant in the 3,100-square-foot space where Geppetto’s operated for decades under multiple owners.
“It needs somebody to put a nice restaurant in there and redo the interior and bathroom,” she said. “The guts are there, but the insides are tired.”
The space has a lot to offer to interested restaurateurs, including its capacity to seat up to 90 guests.
“It’s in a great location, close to a lot of activity, transportation and good parking. It’s vintage with a lot of character and high ceilings,” she said. “It’s a solid space and we’re willing to work with somebody.”
McLauchlan has enlisted David King & Associates Inc. to lease the property.