After 4½ years of defiantly beating the odds of a sluggish and then turbulent economy, Entourage restaurant in Schaumburg finally closed its massive doors on Sunday.
While the restaurant's management feels proud of what was accomplished, the closed business leaves a large and opulent building that will be a challenge for a successor to fill.
Cheryl Sefton, the administrative director of Entourage for its entire life, said the 22,000-square-foot restaurant with 7,000 square feet of banquet space opened on American Lane in February 2006.
The intention of the original owners was to buck the area's trend of chain restaurants by providing an upscale independent restaurant of the type found in the city.
However, those owners declared bankruptcy within two years and the restaurant came to be owned by Mutual Bank, which ultimately failed itself, she said. The final owner of the restaurant was United Central Bank.
Sefton said there was little difference between the original ownership and the later bank ownerships apart from a later reluctance to spend much money on advertising.
Getting the word out about the restaurant was probably a crucial factor in overcoming its somewhat less visible location tucked behind the Weber Grill restaurant, Sefton said.
During the past year, there was also a greater emphasis on cutting costs, but it wasn't until a week ago that Sunday's closure of the restaurant was announced to both staff and the public.
To the bank's credit, Sefton said staff received good severance packages and the ability to look for new work at a time of year that is probably easier than the holidays.
"I just feel very blessed that I've been able to be here the whole time," Sefton said.
Schaumburg's Economic Development Coordinator Matt Frank said there is no serious interest in the site presently, but the village's hope is to find a prospective buyer interested in using the current building.
Frank acknowledged that this is a tall order, given the high-quality and very specific design of the building that was built for Entourage. But there is a hope that an upscale steak or seafood restaurant would be right at home there.
Schaumburg has recently overcome similar challenges in getting large retail buildings filled, like the former Great Indoors. But investors recognize greater risk in restaurants - especially ones located in $10 million buildings, Frank said.