Fishermen's Inn in Elburn may have been one of the first landmark restaurants in our region to illustrate our economy was in a ditch much deeper than past downslides.
With a better economy, the popular dining spot in a renovated barn on Main Street Road and Route 47 would not have closed on Dec. 21, 2009. Before that, the restaurant kept plugging away even after owner Ralph Schleifer died four years earlier. Clifford Spence, president of Fishermen's Inn since 2005, told reporters in 2009 that the once-popular restaurant endured a slow decline in its final two years because of the deteriorating economy and other dining options surfacing nearby.
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The closing ended a 45-year run of serving residents in a picturesque location that drew visitors from around the Chicago area.
Now the site is about to be revived through what amounts to a family affair. Mark and Patricia Southern of Hinckley have purchased the restaurant and banquet hall for $1.2 million. Patricia is the great-niece of Schleifer, so you know she's got some extra motivation to bring the place back to its former glory.
"We're doing a lot of remodeling and updating right now, but we're looking to open the restaurant in late summer or early fall of 2013," Patricia said.
Fishermen's Inn will keep Schleifer's memory alive by retaining its boating theme and several antiques inside, Patricia said.
"We're also going to have a memorial plaque for him," she added. "He'd be proud of what we are doing."
Elburn Village President Dave Anderson knows what a revitalized Fishermen's Inn will do for his village and its neighbors.
"We're excited about it reopening," Anderson said. "It's been a landmark over the years, and it is really positive for the entire county but especially Elburn and Kaneville."
Anderson believes the restaurant could rebound nicely.
"Business (overall) can always be better, but restaurants in Elburn have been hanging in there and doing well," Anderson said. "We're very fortunate in that regard."
Popping with excitement: Mike Dixon of St. Charles has been serving with the Peace Corps in Ukraine for more than a year. During that time, he has sent notes to his friends and followers back home about various aspects of life in that region.
Some of his observations obviously have to do with architecture, which has been his livelihood and passion. Others have referred to Ukrainian traditions and lifestyles, or about his adjustments to life in a place very different from St. Charles.
But there was a new level of excitement in one of his recent notes when he proclaimed he had witnessed "an unbelievable cultural breakthrough."
In short, he encountered something for the first time in Ukraine and it lifted his spirits. That something was microwave popcorn.
"Yes, it's true, I have found microwaveable popcorn," Dixon wrote. He went on to write the popcorn at concession stands at Gorky Park in Vinnytsia tastes awful because it is filled with sugar, but he was able to locate microwave popcorn at a marketplace. By adding a little extra salt and some ground red chili peppers to the product, it sounds as if Dixon entered cloud nine after eating it.
"I will definitely go back tomorrow and buy out their total stock, maybe three more, because I don't expect a restocking," Dixon said.
When the markets in Ukraine run out of products, they tend to simply say they are "out of it," but it's not likely you'll see that product again, Dixon said.
They formed a bond: After reading the story in this column a few weeks ago about Shirley Anderson and Jamie Daniel trying to reconnect with the Rasavong family -- who came to Geneva as Laotian refugees in 1980 -- Lois Linder sent Daniel a letter.
Linder, a member of Geneva Lutheran Church, was part of the city's refugee committee that year. She was glad to see the story about the Rasavongs because she and her husband Floyd became close friends of the family early on. In fact, Lois was the godmother of the two Rasavong boys.
Floyd taught Vanh Rasavong how to drive and helped buy him a car, Linder wrote.
She updated Daniel on how the boys were doing, with one finishing a 10-year stint in the Army and preparing to go to college.
"They are like family, and we love them all," Linder wrote. "It has been a wonderful friendship."
It was a great recap for Daniel and Anderson to see and again reinforced the truth of the matter -- that the work of a church committee 32 years ago paid dividends in the form of lifelong relationships.
Helping with heat: Something tells me that because our summer was so hot and dry, the winter is going to turn around and be extremely cold and wet so as not to be one-upped.
All the more reason that the St. Charles "Neighbors in Need" program is so important and helpful to those who can't always afford to pay their utility bills.
Because of the nature of her job, Gail Blaha, the city's utility billing manager, knows when families are struggling to keep the heat and lights on in their homes.
She started "Neighbors in Need" seven years ago, giving residents the option to donate to help others when paying their utility bills.
Blaha recently put out the call for more help, as the assistance fund had hardly any money left. To learn more about the program, call the city's utility billing office at (630) 377-4426.