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updated: 3/29/2014 6:52 PM

Elburn firefighters open pizza joint in Geneva

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  • Custom Furniture on Route 25 in St. Charles is closing because owner Dick Pakan is retiring. "The Unknown Soldier," which sits out front, was made by his father with trees from the property in 1976. He is for sale if someone is interested. The head alone weighs 500 pounds, Pakan said.

      Custom Furniture on Route 25 in St. Charles is closing because owner Dick Pakan is retiring. "The Unknown Soldier," which sits out front, was made by his father with trees from the property in 1976. He is for sale if someone is interested. The head alone weighs 500 pounds, Pakan said.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


Whether it is fighting fires or gobbling up pizza, firefighters stick together.

That's good news for Elburn firefighters Michael and Christine Huneke as they have watched colleagues from various local fire departments become customers of their Firehouse Pizza and Grill in Geneva. The Hunekes and Edgar Pereda own the new pizza joint.

It's the first business venture for the Hunekes, and they must like what their general manager has to say so far.

"Business has been excellent," said Patrick Liberg, the GM at Firehouse Pizza and Grill, which has been open nearly a month but had its official grand opening a week ago.

Firehouse set up its delivery, carryout and catering shop at 17 N. Fourth St., in the spot where Aurelio's Pizza operated next to State Street Dance Studio for years before moving into its current home on State Street.

That means Firehouse finds itself within shouting distance of Aurelio's new home as well as Morano's Pizza on Hamilton Street.

"Pizza is pizza when it comes to location," Liberg said. "People like their pizza, and they will try different kinds."

Firehouse goes beyond pizza with a full menu of pasta dishes, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, salads, soups and desserts.

The list of "Firehouse Favorites" pizza choices is impressive, but when pressed to pick his favorite, Liberg said he loves the "Italian Beef Pie."

Liberg has been around pizza quite a bit, having served as a manager of an Aurelio's location in Woodridge in the past.

In addition to providing more pizza for the Geneva area, the business wants to get involved in community activities, Liberg said.

"We will have fundraisers for fighting breast cancer, and we get involved in the Wounded Warriors programs," Liberg said. "We also want to be involved in school events."

Of course, I had to try the pizza at Firehouse Pizza and Grill, and it was quite good. My choice was a thin crust pizza with sausage, mushroom, onion, tomato and black olives. All of the ingredients were fresh, and the sausage had a nice, mild "bite" to it that added flavor.

In short, this place is worthy of your visit.

Custom closing its doors: If you've ever driven on Route 25 between St. Charles and South Elgin, you've surely noticed the large Revolutionary War soldier figure sitting on a bench. That's been the icon for Custom Furniture for decades.

But owner Dick Pakan figures it is time for him and the soldier to retire. Pakan, at age 78, plans to close the business that his father, Andrew Pakan, originated in Chicago in 1938 and moved to its current location in the late 1950s.

"We have to sell off the furniture here yet, so I am thinking we will be open another month or so," Pakan said. "Eventually, we will sell the building as well."

The closing of the store at 6N518 Route 25 has nothing to do with the economy, Pakan said.

"It's all about my age," Pakan added. "You know, it's time."

Custom Furniture is open Thursday through Sunday.

Better shape now: You have to believe that the east side of St. Charles is in better shape than it was at this time a year ago, with the new owners turning Charlestowne Mall into The Quad and new owners at Pheasant Run Resort planning to keep the resort a vital entity.

A year ago, that area painted a bleak picture for the city. The mall continued to look like a ghost town and the biggest piles of rubble during the Main Street construction sat directly in front of Pheasant Run. Not exactly a great impression for locals or visitors.

A year from now, we should know a lot more about what the future holds for those key properties.

Better shape later: Speaking of a year from now, St. Charles should also have a much better handle on what the First Street development will look like. Or one would hope.

It didn't pan out the way it was originally planned some six years ago, but some decent ideas have been discussed in the meantime.

Still, that project originally came from a vision based on a robust economy. Not sure we will use "robust" to describe our economy any time soon.

But it does make you wonder. Ten years from now, will St. Charles residents walk around a beautiful First Street centerpiece in the midst of a thriving economy and say, "Remember when the city was struggling to get this off the ground?"

Ready for season: Because I've kept myself indoors through most of the past winter (is it really past?), I can't say for sure whether disc golfers continued to play their game through sleet and snow.

But I know this: They were out in big numbers at Wheeler Park in Geneva last week when the temperatures tried to hover around the high 50s, and even when it was much colder in the 30s.

Sure, the course is muddy in a lot of spots. But unlike regular golf, this looks to be a game where a muddy layout doesn't matter. Players also don't have to wait until greens are ready for action. This is a game without smooth, manicured greens.

Winter's aftermath: We know the winter has been costly from the standpoint of draining city budgets, making our heating bills go up and keeping us from going out as much to spend money at stores and restaurants.

But we'll probably keep hearing bad things in the coming months about how it slowed certain fruit and vegetable crops and how the cost of food is going up because of it.

Maybe, just maybe, someone will announce a good thing: That the arctic cold might have killed the eggs of mosquitoes and other pests?

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