Aunt Sonya’s closing May 30

By Kristen Sackley

For 44 years Aunt Sonya’s has been a family-run Illini restaurant in Champaign, but on Tuesday manager Amy Rosenbaum was told that on May 30, Aunt Sonya’s will have its doors locked.

Aunt Sonya’s, located on 116 W. Kirby Ave., and the Chancellor Hotel, 1501 S. Neil St., have both been told they are being closed by Stadium View Inc., the properties’ owner, a News Gazette report said. Strategic Capital Trust Company is in charge of the two trusts that are selling the property to Steve Horve Sr. of Forsyth, Ill., and Paul Tatman of Urbana, who owns a limited liability company. Horve and Tatman’s company have a contract to buy Aunt Sonya’s and the Chancellor Hotel from Stadium View, and that contract is scheduled to close on June 1.

The restaurant has been the home for breakfast to local Illini fans, students, coaches and athletes from the University since 1961, Rosenbaum said. She said she took over the managing duties two years ago from her parents, Ken and Rose Moen, who had run the restaurant for more than four decades.

Although Aunt Sonya’s hasn’t put up any signs of closing on its doors, Rosenbaum said people know the restaurant is closing. She said sales have increased by $2,000 per day since the reports of the closing.

“It’s in the radio, newspapers, on TV – I think the word is out,” she said. “The community is shocked, upset and they don’t understand why we have to close. They are looking to us for answers.”

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    Jackie Huls, freshman at Parkland College and a Champaign resident, said she heard the news on Wednesday and made it her plan to come for breakfast on Thursday morning.

    “I like the food and the atmosphere,” Huls said. “It’s so sad, I thought they were just moving.”

    The atmosphere seems to be one of the main reasons why Illini fans enjoy coming to Aunt Sonya’s, Rosenbaum said.

    When asked what he enjoys most about Aunt Sonya’s, Spencer Ng, senior in business, said the breakfast.

    “I also like the Illini jerseys on the wall, and I heard the players (University athletes) come here too,” he said.

    As Ng pointed to his table of friends, he explained they all came here as kind of a last breakfast together for the year.

    “We are all coming here because we are graduating,” Ng said.

    Not only were customers and University students upset by the closing of Aunt Sonya’s, but employees were also distraught over the news.

    “My manager brought everyone (all employees) to the front and told us the news,” said Angela Sager, a hostess who has worked at the restaurant for almost two years. “Then she called everyone else so they wouldn’t have to hear it on the news. We are all out of a job and 20 days notice hasn’t hit me yet, either.”

    Rosenbaum said that one of the worst parts about closing is losing her wonderful staff.

    “It’s been a family based business and we have the most dependable staff whether working or outside of work we all pull together to do what we can – it’s always been that way,” said Rosenbaum. She said she “cried with all of them and gave them a big hug” after she broke the news to her staff.

    When asked if Aunt Sonya’s could open in another location in the future, Rosenbaum said that it would be ideal but that she had not had the time to think about it yet.

    “I haven’t had any time to think about it and I don’t think my staff has had time to look for another job yet either,” she said. “We have been so busy.”

    Angela Edwards, a University graduate student, said she would miss Aunt Sonya’s mostly because of the Illini aura that they hold.

    “It’s the place to be if you’re an Illini,” Edwards said.