ITHACA, N.Y. — Philly DeSarno went to Stella’s Bar & Restaurant in Collegetown on Monday.

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Photo courtesy of Stella’s Facebook page
Photo courtesy of Stella’s Facebook page

News had emerged the day before that Stella’s would be closing after about two decades in business on Ithaca’s well-trafficked College Avenue.

See related: Last day of business for Stella’s restaurant, cafe in Collegetown

DeSarno, the city’s deputy director for economic development, wanted to know why. She’s left messages, phone calls, emails, knocked on the door of the business — and, so far, is still searching for an explanation.

“We’re all wondering what’s going on,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “This place is very valuable for the community and we want to know if there’s anything we can do to help.”

The Tompkins County real estate database says that the space is owned by 403 Huestis Street, LLC. It adds that the location was sold for almost $2.5 million by the Po Family in 2008.

Stella’s employees and management have declined to comment about the bar’s sudden closure to Ithaca Voice reporters. DeSarno said it’s her understanding that the staff was not given two weeks notice and were also surprised and flummoxed by the establishment’s closure.

DeSarno noted that the restaurant had recently completed a renovation and didn’t appear to be up for sale on the market at any point. The city is often in touch with businesses that are struggling or looking for help finding an outside buyer; in this instance, that never happened, according to DeSarno.

“I’m just shocked — absolutely shocked,” DeSarno said. “I haven’t heard back from anyone about what’s going on.”

DeSarno stressed that it was important for the city not to just recruit new businesses, but to also ensure that the ones that are here can grow.

“People loved that place,” she said of Stella’s. “I just don’t get it.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.