Stashs, one of Highland Park's oldest restaurants, with a long-running reputation for its hot dogs and french fries, closed abruptly on Tuesday after 44 years.
Originally owned by Stan Jacobson, the restaurant was bought by Bobby Dubin 10 years ago. Dubin, who did not returns calls from Patch for comment, moved Stashs from its former Port Clinton Square location (currently home to Real Urban Barbecue, which just celebrated its second anniversary) to 2nd Street in 2009.
But Dubin did more than change the restaurant's location. Amid an increase in competition and a growing interest in healthier eating, Dubin decided to venture into more creative dining options. He converted part of Stashs into . He doubled down on the idea soon after, converting the other half of the restaurant into a BYOB Italian food restaurant.
The food went from hot dogs and burgers to shaved organic brussels sprouts, slow cooked beef short rib, herb marinated amish chicken and gluten-free quinoa spaghetti. Dishes were prepared with local and organic ingredients, whenever possible.
"I wanted a farm to table restaurant, organic, sustainable," Dubin told Patch last October, "and I decided to do a BYOB, which nobody has along the North Shore."
Trying to evolve
At first, the transition seemed to work wonders. People flocked to both 2nd Street Bistro and 2nd Street Enoteca, bottles in hand, eager to order the whitefish. And Stashs still served its simpler, greasier grub during the day.
"He found something that's working for him right now, and I think they're killing it," Real Urban Barbecue owner Jeff Shapiro said. The 48-year-old Highland Park native worked at Stashs when he was 11, refilling ketchup and mustard bottles."They found their niche."
But things started to slow down, and Dubin grew concerned, according to Business and Economic Development Commissioner Alyssa Knobel.
"We understood that Bobby felt his business was not doing well," she said.
Highland Park Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ginny Glasner applauded Dubin's effort to evolve with the times, but wondered if the launchings of multiple restaurants in such a short time period might have created problems.
"His idea to transform himself and evolve was a good idea," Glasner said, "but it may not have been as clear to the consumer to make it as successful as it could have been."
No notice given
Dubin gave no notice that he would be closing his restaurants, according to Knobel.
"The city was not given any notification," Knobel said, "but we will do everything we can to assist the property owner to find an appropriate tenant to keep our downtown vibrant."
Office of Economic Development Business Liaison Carolyn Hersch told Patch that the she would be reaching out to Stashs' property owners, Peter and Betty Lo to offer help in finding a replacement tenant. Though it's too soon to tell what will go in the storefront, Hersch says it won't necessarily be another restaurant.
"I have a list I maintain of businesses that will be viable downtown," Hersch said.
The closing comes on the heels of Corner Bakery's departure from its Central Avenue location. The City's Office of Economic Development will work with both property owners to help them find replacements.
"We are trying really hard to put the right businesses in," Knobel said. "We want to find what would be the right thing for the spot."
But Stashs will be missed. The loss of a Highland Park business is always bad news, and Stashs' rich history in the city makes the loss even harder.
"I'm sorry that such a long-standing Highland Park business has closed," Glasner said. "That's always sad, especially when it's one that has been such a long standing business as Stashs was."