What's cooking at the Crossing?

What's cooking at the Crossing?

What restaurant does C-U need? Tell our Tom Kacich here

CHAMPAIGN — The first restaurant in this particular space at southwest Champaign's Village at the Crossing was the short-lived Uncle Jack's.

Then came — and went — Minneci's.

Next up?

There are seven restaurants these days at Village at the Crossing, but at least 15 others have revolved in and out at this retail-restaurant-office complex at Windsor and Duncan roads, developed in the mid-2000s.

Several of the restaurants have closed in the past five years, and at least three were in one year and out the next.

Minneci's is the latest restaurant to announce its closing plans. The owner, Rob Meister, did not respond to multiple messages, but in a post on Minneci's Facebook page, he said the restaurant wasn't renewing its lease at Village at the Crossing and would close at the end of this past week, with Saturday the last day.

Joel Ward, a real-estate broker who owns a building at Village at the Crossing and heads a board of its building owners, said vacant spaces at the center tend to get filled quickly. And there aren't any more current vacancies there than at comparable retail centers in the community, he contended.

Ward also said there were non-location factors behind some of the recent restaurant closures.

"I still think it's one of the premier retail locations in the community," he said.

That's partly due to how Village at the Crossing was designed and how well it's maintained, according to Ward.

Everything from parking lots to the landmark tower at the center are kept "up to snuff," he said.

"We spent a fortune not long ago on the tower," Ward said.

He and others pointed to some of the longer-term restaurants at Village of the Crossing that continue to operate — among them Billy Barooz Pub & Grill, Jupiter's at the Crossing, Subway and Espresso Royale.

In addition to those four, restaurant choices remaining at Village at the Crossing include El Patio, San Maru and the newly-opened Pie's the Limit.

Ward said he was a frequent customer at Minneci's, and he believes Meister has shifted his interest to his newer local business, Salad Meister.

"I was over there a lot, and I thought his business was fine," he said.


Will Carle at Fields boost business?

A gradually improving economy was predicted to help restaurant sales on a national basis this year. However, projections called for restaurant owners across the country to continue coping with margin pressures, a tightening labor market and some lingering consumer uncertainty, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Quick-serve and fast-casual sales were expected to gain more this year than sales in table service restaurants.

Juan Ramirez, a current owner of El Patio, described traffic at this location as "all right, kind of slow."

Located in a space where three other former restaurants — Let's Take a Seat, Istanbul and Pasha Mediterranean Cuisine restaurants — preceded, El Patio opened in 2015. Its original owners opened hopeful Village at the Crossing would mean higher traffic over the location of their previous Mexican restaurant at Urbana's Sunnycrest Mall.

Some two years later, "we don't have enough traffic as we'd like to," Ramirez said.

Some other restaurant owners he's talked to at Village at the Crossing have expressed similar views on the traffic, he said.

"We're hoping with the opening of Carle, it's going to bring more traffic through," Ramirez said.

They don't have much longer to wait.

The Carle health system, which is developing Carle at the Fields nearby at the Interstate 57/Curtis Road interchange, said it will be bringing 1,400 employees to that location, with move-ins set to begin early next year.


Location, location, location

The owners of two businesses at Village at the Crossing — Blossom Basket Florist and Rod Sickler Salon and Spa — say they're happy with where they are.

"It's been a great location for us," said Blossom Basket owner Ron Bailey. "We've had a really good clientele there and we continue to have a good clientele there."

Blossom Basket also does a lot of advertising, Bailey said.

"I know a lot of the restaurants don't do as much marketing and advertising, especially the smaller ones," he said.

Salon owner Rod Sickler recalled opening at the Crossing a dozen years ago when there weren't that many businesses there yet.

"It was kind of scary," he recalled.

Now, Sickler said he's in the process of buying the building he's in from his landlord.

"I have seen a lot of business come and go, but I think the thing that has been much better over the last couple of years is when they opened up the Curtis Road exit," he said.

The opening of the new Curtis Road interchange at I-57 made the Crossing a more convenient spot for shoppers and dining patrons beyond nearby neighborhoods, Sickler said. From some outlying towns, he said, getting to the Crossing now takes no longer than a drive there from Urbana.

Not only that, Sickler said, the Carle development is on the way.

"We're all excited because we're going to get so many more people," he said.


North Prospect rent pricier than Crossing

Ward contended one factor behind some closures, not only at Village at the Crossing but elsewhere, may be that some businesses had insufficient capital to begin with.

Commercial property owners have to be selective with their tenants, he said.

"I've shown my vacant office space to folks who didn't have the financial wherewithal. I didn't think they were viable," he said. "I don't think every property owner looks at it that way."

A potential issue for some independently-owned restaurants that haven't made it at Village of the Crossing could be that rents tend to run higher there than at some other retail centers in the community, Sickler said.

"I have 6,000 square feet, and before I bought the building my rent here was over $10,000 a month," he said.

Rents run around $15-$20 per square foot at Village of the Crossing, Sickler said, and that can make it tough for new restaurants that have their build-outs to pay for on top of making a go of it in a competitive environment.

A look at commercial spaces for rent in Champaign-Urbana showed Village at the Crossing doesn't have the highest leasing rates, though there are also less pricey rates in the community.

Some retail spaces in the North Prospect area, for example, were being advertised for $28 and $29 per square foot. Two spaces at the new Carriage Center on South Neil Street were available for $29 per square foot, while three spaces at Lincoln Square in Urbana were listed at $6 a square foot.

Commercial broker Alex Ruggieri agreed the rents at Village at the Crossing are a little higher than some areas of the community. However, he said, "I think it's a strong value."

That's based on the synergy of some longer-term tenants such as Walgreens making the center a destination site, plus multiple homes in the surrounding area, he said.

Being in a good location pays dividends in the restaurant industry, said Ruggieri, a senior advisor with Sperry Van Ness. He'd rather spend $15 a square foot on a good location than $10 on a not-as-good one.

"I think that area is just fine," Ruggieri said. "It's one of the best areas of development we've had."


Bygone at the Crossing

Some of the restaurants that have closed at southwest Champaign’s Village at the Crossing include Aroma Curry House, Mezzaluna, Doughbelly Subs, Smoke 'Que & Brew, Sairam Om, Pasha Mediterranean Cuisine, AnSun and Istanbul. The timelines for seven more that are gone:

Name Opened Closed
Shanghai 1938 2007 2014
Papa Del's 2009 2016
Uncle Jack's 2010 2011
Let's Take a Seat 2011 2015
Wedge 2014 2015
Cabo's 2013 2014
Minneci's 2013 July 15, 2017


Sections (3):News, Local, Business

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
welive wrote on July 16, 2017 at 2:07 pm

You forgot Ansun plus there was a BBQ place in the same location after that.


johnny wrote on July 16, 2017 at 11:07 pm

I didn't even realize Wedge had closed out there.  I got turned off when the downtown location was de-emphasized in favor of the other one, and food specials were de-emphasized in favor of drink specials.

Responsive wrote on July 17, 2017 at 8:07 am

So Rod Sickler had been paying $1.67 / square foot? Why so low? Seems the story, which focuses on rent rates, should explain such an outlier. Sickler is quoted above, "6,000 square feet...my rent here was over $10,000 a month"