For Aurora residents Randy and Lisa Brown, the retirement of their longtime ice cream parlor, Banana Split, will have to wait.
The couple announced in October that they intended to sell off-season the iconic Aurora business at 820 Church Road that they have owned for more than 40 years and chart a new course in traveling and enjoying their small -children.
Lisa Brown, 61, said that by January, she knew those plans would have to be put on hold, something she and her husband Randy, 64, knew was possible from the start.
“We haven’t sold yet. We’ve had some interested parties and a few buyers we thought were close, but, like everything, it’s not on our timeline. You just have to roll with the punches and go from there,” Lisa Brown said. “I hope it sells during the season and we can still retire and do community work and play with our grandchildren.”
The couple says that for now, the store is scheduled to open for the season on February 29.
Brown said about seven offers were made for the business, all from locals, including “a few restaurant entrepreneurs who own more than one store,” but the majority being “people who want the American dream.” .
“The sticking points are people who aren’t willing to pay what we’re asking – people who want to buy a 40-year-old business that has been profitable. It’s not going to cost $100,000,” she said. “If you were to open an ice cream shop like this today, it would cost over a million dollars, and it has no history. This is not a cheap business.
Randy Brown acknowledged that money was an issue but, just as importantly, the Browns “want to sell to the right people.”
“We have a positive reputation and history in the community and we want to keep that going,” he said. “Some buyers have indicated they want to buy the property and then have someone else come in and manage it. We’ve never done this and we don’t think it’s the way to go.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t really find the right person,” he said. “It took me longer than I thought.”
“It has to go to the right person,” Lisa Brown said. “We want to make sure of that because of our reputation. We want our reputation to endure. We want the next person(s) or family to have a good life. I don’t want anyone to lose their shirt. I want them to continue what Randy and I started and the wonderful experience we got from it.
Last fall, the couple said customers were in mourning after what they thought was the final curtain drop for the ice cream shop, an outcome that may not have been anticipated.
“People thought we were going to close the store and never open it. All that was said was that we were considering retirement,” she said. “The day a story about us came out, I told Randy it was like a visit. People were crying at the window because they thought we were leaving saying, “You can’t close, this is where we had our first date” or “We came here after we had our first child “. It was so comforting.
“It was a surreal experience. It was like a funeral, and we had our second best day in the history of our store the day before we closed in October,” Randy Brown said. “People weren’t grumpy. They waited in line for half an hour from 1 p.m. until 10 minutes before closing and they were really happy for us and sad for themselves that the store was going to disappear. If you could have a funeral for yourself and be there, this is how you would feel.
The majority of last year’s staff is ready to return for the planned Feb. 29 opening, the Browns said.
“We had a really good team last year and it would have been a good time to call it quits, but they’re always willing to work,” Randy Brown said. “How can I deny them this opportunity? We’re going to reduce some of our hours and take a few days off, which we’ve never done in the past.
Lisa Brown said work was underway to prepare for opening day.
“I’m placing my orders soon and waiting for a repairman to come and fix a freezer and everything is ready to go,” she said.
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.
Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.chicagotribune.com