Papa George Eatery closing as economy takes toll

Author: Debra Pressey
Date Published: 10/01/2008

CHAMPAIGN — Valerie and George Pyle got the word to some of their 30 employees Sunday. The rest would see the sign when they came in Monday.

The Pyles’ restaurant, Papa George, at 505 S. Neil St., C, is closing. Its last day open is expected to be Friday, Valerie Pyle said.

It was open only about a year. But it was a year in which the economy wasn’t kind to business startups that need time to simmer and build their clientele.

The Pyles opened Papa George in the space formerly occupied by Pickles Food & Fun. They kept some menu items from Pickles, but added many dishes reflecting their Greek heritage.

”People really loved our food,” Valerie Pyle said.

She and her husband made the decision on Sunday to close, she said. The tailspin started months ago, though.

Pyle said she and her husband had planned on his income as pastor of Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church in Champaign to help support them as the restaurant built its business.

Last fall, he took a leave of absence because of medical issues, Pyle said, then was offered a job through that church’s archdiocese that didn’t pan out.

Her husband has been out of a job since June, she added, ”and we have just been trying to make it work.” Meanwhile, Pyle said, the economy has taken its toll.

”We’ve definitely seen people eating out less,” Pyle said. ”People who used to come in once or twice a week now come in once or twice a month.” Pyle said she and her husband decided it would be best to try to sell the restaurant, but if they don’t have any interest from a buyer, their last day will be Friday. She plans to get a job with a regular paycheck, but hasn’t decided yet where she will go looking.

The first thing is to wrap up the restaurant. Then she’ll see, she said.

”We’re very sad about the chain of events,” Pyle said. ”But we know that we did our best and put out a great product, and we can hold our heads high.” Robert K. O’Daniell/The News-Gazette The sign outside Papa George restaurant Monday in Champaign announces its planned closure Friday and availability for sale.