Actor and singer Donnie Wahlberg has dreamed of bringing his family's burger joint to St. Charles since the moment he stepped foot in town. He discussed the idea with his brothers and business partners, and fought hard to make his community home to the first Wahlburgers in Illinois.
Wahlberg's vision soon will become a reality after the city council on Monday unanimously approved plans for constructing the restaurant and bar on the city's west side.
"This is a real honor for me and my family," said Wahlberg, who lives in St. Charles with his wife, celebrity Jenny McCarthy, and their sons. "We really want to do more than just make a big splash. We want to bring jobs, bring resources and finances to the community (and) to reinvest in the community."
Wahlburgers will be one of three new retail buildings on a three-acre Meijer outlot at Route 38 and Randall Road. Architects already contacted the city Tuesday morning to initiate the building permit process, meaning construction could begin late next month or early August, said Rita Tungare, community and economic development director.
The Massachusetts-based burger chain -- co-founded by Wahlberg and his brothers, actor, Mark and chef, Paul -- is the subject of an A&E television show called "Wahlburgers." TV crews were at the St. Charles meeting Monday to record the city council's final vote on establishment plans.
Despite the Wahlberg brothers' fame and fortune, Donnie told city aldermen the St. Charles community doesn't treat him like a celebrity. In the three years his family has lived in town, they always have felt comfortable and supported, he said.
"It means a lot, and it reminds me that I'm in the right place," Wahlberg said. "It reminds me and our business family that this is where we need to target -- places like St. Charles where there are real communities with real people who just want good food, good fun, good times and good memories."
When they first met, Wahlberg told Mayor Ray Rogina he wanted his (Wahlberg's) son to work at a Wahlburgers -- Rogina's first indication the city might eventually be home to one of the famous burger joints.
Rogina credited Wahlberg for his dedication to the project and his desire to invest in the community.
"You're on the high stage, and with that, you seem to just blend very nicely here in this community, and I think everybody is grateful," Rogina said. "We're very proud and very happy that Wahlburgers will be here in St. Charles."
Wahlburgers is known for its burgers, but also serves sandwiches, salads, homemade entrees and desserts, according to its menu. The 6,000-square-foot St. Charles restaurant, which contains an outdoor patio, will be the central establishment on a property covering a portion of the Meijer parking lot.
Tenants have not yet been confirmed for the two buildings on either side of Wahlburgers, Tungare said. All three structures will be constructed simultaneously.
"This opportunity in St. Charles and all of your support has really helped to remind my brothers and our family and our corporate family what's really important. This is a family restaurant," Wahlberg said. "It's for real working people who maybe want a taste of some great food (and) some great family atmosphere."