A Lisle restaurant hit hard by flooding April 18 may have the longest road to recovery of any business in the village, but staff and supporters of Raymes Steak and Fish House celebrated a major step forward Thursday.
Ground was broken for a new building to house the supper club-themed restaurant.
"We're ready for the new building," owner Jerri Nolan said. "We're ready for progress."
The restaurant, on Route 53 near Ogden Avenue, took on three and a half feet of water after heavy rains on April 17 and 18. The damage was so severe, Nolan said constructing a new building was the only option she and her husband, Gary, had to save the restaurant they've owned since 2009.
BLR Architects of Lisle has designed a 5,000-square-foot, prairie-style building -- almost double the original restaurant's size -- to hold the new Raymes, which Nolan hopes will hearken back to the old.
"We're known as a Wisconsin supper club," Nolan said. "I totally intend to keep that theme going."
Thursday's groundbreaking -- slightly up a hill but on the same site as the restaurant's original location -- marks the beginning of a six-month construction process. Nolan said she hopes the new, $1.1 million building can be open by Feb. 1. That would allow for a Valentine's Day grand opening Mayor Joe Broda already is envisioning.
"Raymes has been an icon on this corner for many, many years and it's going to have a new look," Broda said about the establishment, which opened in 1974. "This is a new day and a new era for Raymes."
About 50 people, including Lisle Area Chamber of Commerce members, park district officials and three generations of Raymes waitresses attended the groundbreaking.
Michelle Parker of Bolingbrook, whose mother and grandmother both worked at Raymes, said she misses her favorite menu item -- grouper -- and hopes to be back working at the restaurant serving baby back ribs and "King Size" cocktails when it reopens.
"I just loved the people. I miss all the people," said former Raymes employee Lisa Parker, Michelle's mother. "New people, when they walk in, they know it's filled with regulars."
While Raymes was far from the only Lisle business -- or residence -- affected by the April flooding, it may be among the last that remains closed.
Broda said 127 homes were damaged so heavily their owners are seeking buyouts, and plenty of others suffered sewer backups. Apartment residents at the Towers at Four Lakes had to live elsewhere for two months while electric equipment housed in the flooded basement of their buildings was repaired, although their units never took on water.
Tom Althoff, president and CEO of the Lisle Area Chamber of Commerce, said Lisle Lanes and the Maple Avenue location of Lisle Savings Bank also faced long roads to flood recovery. The bank renovated its office to move personnel out of a basement that flooded in April for the second time, and the bowling alley reopened Sept. 7 in advance of a Sept. 28 grand opening event. Owner Cesar Canonigo said he put in more than $1 million to replace buckled wood and broken score-keeping equipment on the alley's 32 lanes.
Back at Raymes, Nolan said the old building will be demolished once utilities are shut off and the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District uses it for training exercises.
Community support for all businesses recovering from flooding remains strong, Althoff said.
"You can see everyone is rooting for these guys," he said. "It's been a long-standing institution and we cherish it."