Trustee, on Pizza Place Closing: 'What Does This Do to Our Downtown Now?'

Despite the best efforts of Tony's Villa Rosa Pizza owners, the Village of Mokena and Trustee Don Labriola, Tony's and Great Lakes Bank could not reach an agreement on a lease, forcing Tony's to close its doors in Mokena, for now.

Front Street in Mokena took a hit April 30, when due to a lease disagreement between business owners and Great Lakes Bank, the property holder of the location.

Trustee Don Labriola and Director of Community and Economic Development Alan Zordan both reached out to the bank, looking to help find an amicable solution to the situation, but both were unable to succeed.

“I'm just very aggravated, I don't see any logic in this,” Labriola said.

According to Labriola, while Mauro DiSabato, Tony's Villa Rosa Pizza's manager, was dealing with one member of the bank, Labriola spoke with Paul Van Zee of Great Lakes Bank, and found that there was missing or misinformation at the bank about Tony's. After their initial conversation, Labriola said he never heard back from Van Zee.

“There were a lot of things that he didn't know,” he said. “From our conversation about what got told to him. He told me he would talk to his staff and get back to me. He never did.”

Labriola said that keeping viable businesses on Front Street is extremely difficult and that the loss will be felt for a long time. He continued by saying that with the bank owning the property, there are going to be lingering questions for some time about the location.

“We're not going to replace that, it's not going to happen,” he said. “We need stuff like that down there. … What does that do to our downtown now? ”

For his part, Zordan said that he also reached out to the bank, but that he got much of the same story as Labriola and DiSabato.

“I was calling to see what the problem was and kind of brainstorm to see if we could come up with a solution that would be win-win for all parties,” Zordan said.

Zordan said that while the Village is sad to see Tony's Villa Rosa leave, the two parties are already working on bringing the business back to Mokena

“He's got some loyal customers in the community and we are working with him on a couple of other locations that we'd love to see him go into,” Zordan said.

Greak Lakes Bank declined comment. 


Jane McGinn May 03, 2012 at 11:31 AM
If Paul E isn't re-opening, Villa Rose should go in there - it used to be a pizza place and Paul made pizzas, too to I'd assume there are pizza ovens in there?
tess May 03, 2012 at 12:39 PM
That (Paul E) would be an excellent location for Villa Rose! I always wished that the other location had sit down dining ... even for just a bowl of ice cream! ... so Paul E's space would be perfect AND my family could still walk there!
Mike May 03, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Villa Rose was the best pizza place in town. It also was one of the only places right in town where young people were welcomed and could gather. It also employed some of Mokena's kids. Finally, you were always served in a friendly manner. This is a tragedy.
Don Labriola May 03, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Great Lakes bank had a tremendous opportunity to build goodwill and demonstrate that they are a good neighbor and friend of the business community in Mokena. Instead, they behaved like little children and bullies at the same time. This is exactly what happens when dealing with someone (at the bank) that has never owned a business or had the responsibility to make a payroll every week. They play with people's future and well being like its Monopoly money. We've lost a great business in exactly the spot where it was a huge boost to downtown Mokena. The DiSabato family was proud to be in Mokena and worked hard to build a successful business. This is what we get after the government bailed out the banking industry, more greed and less community spirit. Shame on you Great Lakes bank. Trustee Don
Dottie May 03, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Well said, Don!
Charlene Bergman May 03, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Well, another blow to Front Street -- we will survive - opening the market on Front Street last week was a big boost to our street - the financial institutions need to realize that small businesses are having a very difficult time and need to work with all of us to maintain the businesses we have that are operating.The Mokena Downtown Merchants is extending a hand to the Village to work with them to promote the revitalization of the street - keeping businesses open and also move new businesses into now vacant buildings. If we all work together I feel that we can do this - it will take some effort but we can do it.
patrick markham May 03, 2012 at 04:57 PM
It is important to note a few phone calls had been placed to the bank. I phoned, Don Labriola phoned and a few others i believe to try to elicit community sensitivity and as Don puts it , goodwill. Evidently, although Great Lakes likes to take savings and transactions in our town they surely dont seem to want to be a part of the community. In my humble opinion. A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain!! What is the crime of robbing a bank compared with the crime of founding one? I note that this is just my opinion.... sure dont want to hear the same as Pizza shop, "you will hear from our lawyers". !!
Dorothy May 03, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I'm not quite sure why Village and School Board officials think they have the right to intercede in a business deal between a bank and business owner whio is renting from the bank. Nor do I think it is a good idea to bash another business who also pays property tax and employs Village residents. We don't know the whole story - I doubt the bank just up and decided to throw Villa Rosa out on their ear.
Lauren Traut (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Hi, Dorothy, I agree that it's unwise to "bash" another local business. It's important to note that Patch reached out to several contacts at the bank, and none would comment on the situation. Unfortunately, our information is limited and we presented it in the best way possible. Lauren Traut Associate Regional Editor, Patch.com
Deanna May 03, 2012 at 06:02 PM
When is it closing? We love Villa :(
Lauren Traut (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Hi, Deanna. It closed April 30. BUT they're offering free delivery to Mokena, from their Frankfort location. Hope that makes you feel a little bit better. :/ Lauren
Jeff Graveline May 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Deanna,Tony's Villa Rosa Pizza already closed their doors in Mokena, but they are open in Frankfort and are offering free delivery to Mokena residents. You can still call their Mokena number to order and it will be forwarded to the Frankfort location. Also, they're working on coming back to Mokena in a new location.
Don Labriola May 03, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Dorothy. School board V.P. Pat Markham and I DO know the whole story. Mr. DiSabato reached out looking for help because he loves doing business in Mokena. Tony's Villa Rosa filled an important niche on Front Street. As a Mokena Village Board member I have an obligation to promote business and look out for the best interest of our residents. Many citizens ask why there aren't more businesses on Front street. You're witnessing one of the problems as demonstrated with the Tony's Villa Rosa situation. The bank has decided they would rather have an empty storefront than enter in to an agreement with a successful business that wants to be here. There have been several other business owners at that location that couldn't make it work. The DiSabato family could have opened a location anywhere and chose Front Street. They figured out how to make that location viable. We need more like them in downtown Mokena. Anytime I think I can help improve our community you can bet that's the direction I will go in. Trustee Don
Deanna May 03, 2012 at 10:38 PM
That's good! Thanks for this update :) We just ordered from there on Sunday, so I was shocked when I heard this.
S. May 03, 2012 at 10:47 PM
@Tess & @ Mike....very good ideas and points..PaulE's sit down would be great, kids were welcomed and family dining, walking etc. just what we need!
David Molinari May 04, 2012 at 12:41 PM
this is one more reason to make a greater effort to revitalize front street! Front street is the Real Mokena Image. It deserves a better Day! let's make that happen! Get the Carpetbaggers out of Mokena! We are not Orland Park South!
DomeHome May 06, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Hmmmm!! time for me to change who I bank with. Bye Bye GLB we are putting our assets in another local bank. Also perfectly proper for our village representatives to interced on behalf of the businesses--keeping and creating business opportunities is how the Village Board keeps our tax base. If the trustee was telling it like it was expressed by bank officials then he has the right and the obligation to let his constituents know.
Pam Schonwise May 07, 2012 at 02:30 PM
I am glad I don't bank at Great Lakes! It is a sad commentary of our economic times that the two parties couldn't come together. It was so nice having Villa Rosa on Front St. for the families who live in the downtown area and could walk there.


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