Geneva’s former Little Owl, Flagstone back on the market for $1.575M

’It’s a great opportunity for the next chapter’

GENEVA – The new owner of the former Little Owl and Flagstone Crafts and Cocktails restaurants in Geneva put it on the market this week for $1.575 million, according to the commercial listing agent.

Nick Smith of the Karas Restaurant Group, and director of “Munger Road” bought the iconic business and historic building at 101-105 W. State St., on the corner of Routes 31 and 38 in September 2019. Geneva Township property records show Castle Investment Properties Inc., the legal entity created to buy the property, paid nearly $1.1 million for it.

Smith, who owns Alexander’s Cafe in St. Charles and the Old Republic Kitchen + Bar in Elgin, said though he put a lot of time and money into the Geneva location, but ultimately he had to give it up because the Elgin location grew so much and needed his attention.

“I was really excited about it,” Smith said of the former Little Owl. “We were coming along with construction, even during the pandemic of 2020.”

The plan was to have a second location for the Old Republic brand in Geneva, he said.

“Because of the challenges and navigation required, it’s in our best interest to let somebody else take a stab at that corner,” Smith said. “Because Geneva has been so patient, I don’t think they want to see that building boarded up for a minute longer. … I think that either the right person or the right company would be able to focus on it and bring it back to life better, because of our focus in Elgin.”

Jace Murray of Murray Commercial in St. Charles said the property was listed for sale this week.

“They’ve done the heavy lifting for it to be ready for the next player to come in and complete it,” Murray said. “It’s a great opportunity for the next chapter.”

Murray said the work included infrastructure, shoring up floorings and additional space, as well as demolition inside to create a wide open dining space, though the Little Owl and Flagstone areas are still on two levels.

“We are going to do our best to find another great player to bring in here,” Murray said.

As recently as Nov. 1, Geneva city officials were to consider more than $155,000 in redevelopment assistance to Smith.

According to Committee of the Whole documents, the reason to offer assistance was because the cost of retrofitting the structure and upgrading its electrical service brought construction to a halt.

“The owner is proposing an investment in excess of $2.1 million,” documents show. “To restart work, the owner is seeking a commitment from the City to complete regional electrical upgrades at an estimated cost of $51,767.”

Smith also sought an economic incentive agreement for a sales tax rebate to cover the private side of the electric upgrades of $104,750, and building permit fee credit in the amount of $10,000.

“The site is a prominent corner with several challenges that can potentially be overcome through a public private partnership,” according to a memo to the council from Economic Development Director Cathleen Tymoszenko. “The owner has a proven success record and a winning restaurant concept. Providing assistance would recognize and display the city’s commitment to historic preservation, meet numerous planning and strategic plan goals and prioritize the public commitment to working with investors who are taking on difficult adaptive reuse projects necessary to ready space for modern tenants.”

Tymoszenko’s memo warns that without the city’s economic assistance, “it is likely that we will not see a new restaurant in this location anytime in the new future.”

However, by the time the Nov. 1 Committee of the Whole meeting began, Castle Investment Properties Inc. asked that agenda items relating to the assistance be removed, records show.

The two-story Little Owl building was built in 1925 and operated by the Arbizzani family from 1947 – with Flagstone as an addition in 2007 – until it closed in August 2019.