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Toni’s of Winnebago will close its doors after rent increase

“That impact is not just ‘I had a pizza at Toni’s.’ It’s, ‘I had an experience in Winnebago.’”
Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:17 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Toni’s of Winnebago will close its doors on Sep. 28.

“She catered to what we needed in Winnebago, and she provided very fine food for a very good price,” said Village of Winnebago president Frank Eubank.

Owner Michelle Princer blames her exit on an increase in rent and because of the building owners’ decision to not release her from a personal guarantee agreement.

“I think a person that’s been here for 23 years shouldn’t have to be signing a personal guarantee,” Princer said. “I don’t think that that’s fair after I’ve been paying rent 23 years times 12.”

Princer says she offered to buy the property, but the owners set the asking price at $600,000, a price Princer claims is non-negotiable.

The Winnebago County Treasurer lists the fair market value at about $319,000.

“We draw people in,” Princer said. “My customers come here. They pick up a pizza here. They forget a gallon of milk and go to Sullivan’s. They put gas in their car down at the gas station, and sometimes they just have dinner here, go to The Scoop and have ice cream or go to Culver’s and have ice cream.”

Many customers have taken to social media to express their sadness about the restaurant’s closing. One customer declined to comment because it’s “too difficult.”

“That impact is not just ‘I had a pizza at Toni’s,” Princer said. “It’s, ‘I had an experience in Winnebago.’”

Princer says she will still cater small events but cannot handle weddings right now. The owners of the building declined to comment at this time.

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