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updated: 8/23/2011 2:16 PM

Arlington Heights' 'Harry's' loses its namesake

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  • Harry McCollum, owner of Harry's of Arlington, died this weekend. He was 75.

      Harry McCollum, owner of Harry's of Arlington, died this weekend. He was 75.
    Bill Zars

  • Harry McCollum, owner of Harry's of Arlington, died Saturday. He was 75.

      Harry McCollum, owner of Harry's of Arlington, died Saturday. He was 75.

 
By Eileen O. Daday

A popular Arlington Heights restaurant lost its namesake over the weekend, when Harry McCollum, owner of Harry's of Arlington, passed away on Saturday. He was 75.

"Right from the start, he wanted to keep the neighborhood feel, of making families feel welcome and of bringing people together," said his youngest daughter, Barbara Holden of Harvard.

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McCollum built a career in medical sales before he entered the restaurant business. In 1993, he purchased the former Billy Club with his sons, Harry and Greg, and they worked together to make the restaurant a gathering place for all ages.

Jon Ridler, executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, says the unique family-owned restaurant helps make downtown Arlington Heights a food destination for Chicago's suburbs.

"Harry always had great ideas and he knew what was needed to run a successful restaurant," Ridler said.

The restaurant's historic setting helped set the tone. It is one of the only downtown Arlington Heights buildings from the 19th century still standing. Located at 1 N. Vail Ave., it dates back to 1893, when it opened as the Redecker General Store.

Over the years, the building would house a grocery market and later a furniture store, before playing host to the Turf Pool Hall and Tavern. After the pool hall closed in 1967, the building remained empty until 1972, when the Republican Party used the space for Richard Nixon's local presidential election campaign.

When McCollum and his sons opened Harry's in 1993 it was exactly 100 years after the building had been built.

"Right from the start, my dad wanted it to be more than a bar and grill," his daughter said. "So lots of dishes are homemade, using many of my mom's original recipes."

Patricia McCollum passed away in 2010, but her beef barley soup remains a staple at the restaurant, as does her chili, coleslaw and potato salad.

The McCollums also added live music on weekends, as well as Thursday night trivia contests, which McCollum himself would moderate in the early years, Friday fish fry events and even an Arlington Heights Idol contest.

In more recent years, the addition of a beer garden and tiki bar on Harry's outdoor patio have drawn steady lunch and dinner hour crowds.

Besides his daughter, Mr. McCollum is survived by his children, Kathy (Steve) Butler of Wauconda, and Patty (Steve) Barker, Greg (Sharon) McCollum and Harry (Ann) McCollum, all of Arlington Heights, as well as 13 grandchildren.

Visitation will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. today at Glueckert Funeral Home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road, in Arlington Heights. A funeral Mass takes place at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. James Church, 831 N. Arlington Heights Road, in Arlington Heights.

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