MORGAN PARK — The sale of Marco's Beef in Morgan Park will undoubtedly have an impact on the social life of many neighborhood teenagers.
The popular hangout at 2547 W. 111th St. will close once a deal is finalized, which is expected no later than next Friday, owner Frank Maropoulos said.
The new owners will change the name and the menu, offering Mexican food rather than Marco's signature Italian beef and chicken sandwiches, Maropoulos said.
Though the business had been quietly for sale since 2008, news of a deal shocked many families living in the area. Marco's was a popular stomping ground for teens and preteens. Many were allowed to walk to the nearby restaurant on their own to meet up with friends and share an order of french fries.
"I had to actually call them when I found just out to be sure that [Marco's] was actually closing," Meara Haggerty said.
Meara, 12, walked to Marco's in the rain on Tuesday to meet Mary Kenah, 12, and Kylie Sullivan, 11. The seventh-grade students at St. Cajetan School have regularly enjoyed Marco's food and friendly atmosphere since the restaurant opened in 2006.
"It's a good place to come when we don't have anyplace else to go," Sullivan said.
Maropoulos said without the support of neighborhood families, Marco's would have closed much sooner.
"The people were great. We made a lot of good friends. We saw a lot of kids grow up," said Maropoulos, a resident of west suburban River Grove.
This was Maropoulos' first South Side restaurant. He previously owned Marco's Beef stores in Avondale, Belmont Cragin, Logan Square and suburban Westchester.
While he enjoyed the Morgan Park community, he said the volume of business was lower than stores he previously owned. He sells about 30 Italian beef sandwiches daily in Morgan Park compared with 200 on the North Side.
Part of the problem may have been Marco's location in Morgan Park. The restaurant is next to Charter Fitness, making gyros and Polish sausage a tough sell to folks walking out of the gym.
Marco's adjusted its menu, offering an array of chicken sandwiches, salads and protein shakes. But strange bedfellows combined with an economic slump that began in 2008 made business difficult, Maropoulos said.
He said he plans to look for a new location, eventually. Where that might be and when it will open is still up in the air.
"I'm Greek. This [the restaurant business] is what we do," Maropoulos said.
Mary Walsh, 10, ran into some of her friends from school while eating at Marco's Beef Tuesday. Meanwhile, her mother, Peggy Walsh, lamented the restaurant's closing with the owners.
"My favorite thing about Marco's is the nice people who work here," Mary Walsh said.
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