PORTAGE PARK — A neighborhood empanada shop is closing after two and a half years, but the owners hope their business journey is not over.
Luna Empanada Shop, 6011 W. Irving Park Road, will close Sunday after a difficult year with the pandemic, financial strains and family issues, co-owner Doris Luna said.
Luna made the announcement on social media Monday night. She said it took her an hour to post the message because of how emotional the decision to close has been. By Tuesday, the shop was flooded with customers who were sad to hear the news and hugged Luna goodbye.
“I had a lot of connections with a lot of people, and I can’t be more grateful for the support people tried to show whenever they could,” Luna said. “The relationships that we built … I would never trade them for the world.”
Luna feels bittersweet about the closing but said it’s not a permanent goodbye. She and her brother, Ed Luna, who co-owns the restaurant, might reopen in some fashion down the line. For now, the owners said it’s time to take a break.
“It’s tough. It is what it is,” Ed Luna said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s also part of life. What do you assess more value to: your health or a business? I will take the health every day of the week.”
Earlier this year, a driver hit Ed Luna while he was riding his motorcycle, and he almost lost his legs. Doris Luna said her multiple sclerosis is getting worse and their mother — the main empanada chef — also needs surgery. And their father has Alzheimer’s disease.
All of these health reasons, coupled with another wave of coronavirus cases hitting the city and hurting small businesses, are signs the family needs to “simmer,” Doris Luna said.
She’s entertained the thought of pop-up shops or catering down the line, but nothing is set in stone yet.
“We don’t know what the future holds,” Doris Luna said. “The empanadas still exist, but right now it’s not the time for them. Hopefully, we can come back. … I don’t know; but we have to take a break and let it sit.”
The family-run business serves empanadas, arepas, sandwiches and authentic Colombian dishes. Ed Luna and his parents are Colombian and his sister is a first-generation American.
As a longtime Portage Park resident, Doris Luna wanted to open Luna Empanada Shop in the area because it’s what’s familiar to her father.
“He has dementia and Alzheimer’s, so this is the area he knows,” she said. “So we never wanted to leave it so he can stay comfortable. … This is his spot to come so he can get free coffee. He calls himself the boss.”
The first-time business owners said that when they opened the shop in December 2018, it was “bangin'” — families, nearby business owners and Northwest Siders flocked to the shop. The owners had ideas to expand the brand.
“My favorite thing was seeing the pickiest kids saying, ‘I don’t want it,’ and the first thing you see them doing is eating the empanada that the parents just bought,” Doris Luna said. “Picky eater? I don’t think so. … It was nice to get a crowd.”
The owners want to thank the community for supporting them and hope folks follow along on social media for updates on what the family does next.
“Thank you for all your support and patronage,” Ed Luna said. “Catch you on the flip side.”
The shop is open for dine-in and carryout 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily until the close. It will close permanently 6 p.m. Sunday.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: