DeKALB – Despite the closures of the chain’s other Illinois locations and a fire that caused $10,000 in damage to the building, Toppers Pizza at 1015 W. Lincoln Highway will be reopening Saturday.
The Wisconsin-based pizza chain closed its five Illinois locations in DeKalb, the South Loop, the West Loop, Wrigleyville and Bucktown to focus on growing in other states, according to a statement from Toppers CEO Scott Gittrich.
DeKalb’s store closed Feb. 23. The next day, police said a former employee broke into the restaurant, stole food and caused a fire.
Since then, Steve Leffler, owner of Suburban Tire Auto Repair Center stores in St. Charles, Oswego, Hanover Park and Roselle, has been working with DeKalb officials to reopen the business.
Toppers spokesman Brian Jaeger said that Leffler and Gittrich knew each other from when they used to work at Domino’s in college and came to an agreement to keep the DeKalb location alive.
Leffler said that although he has been in the auto repair business since 1990, he never lost the itch to own a pizza place and held the quality of Toppers’ pizzas in high regard.
“I’m really impressed with the Topper’s company values and the way they treat employees,” Leffler said. “It’s very exciting to get it open and get the pizzas rolling. With my business experience and pizza background, I figured this is a natural fit.”
A manager from the Wrigleyville location has been hired and several members of the DeKalb staff were rehired as well, Leffler said.
Leffler said that he still needs to fill five or six positions, as some of the former employees are away on spring break, but there is enough staff to make it through the weekend.
The store’s pizza oven was damaged during the fire, but an oven from one of the Chicago locations has been brought in and thoroughly cleaned to bring the store into compliance, Leffler said.
With the exception of a few flavors of soda that won’t come in until Monday, Leffler said that the full menu will be available.