St. Charles restaurant sets great example

  • Roxanne Bell says her son John Remitz, who has Down syndrome, had difficulty finding work. But Wok 'n Fire restaurant stepped to the plate and offered the St. Charles resident a part-time job.

    Roxanne Bell says her son John Remitz, who has Down syndrome, had difficulty finding work. But Wok 'n Fire restaurant stepped to the plate and offered the St. Charles resident a part-time job. Courtesy of John Remitz

Updated 5/31/2014 10:32 PM

By her way of thinking, Roxanne Bell believes the Wok 'n Fire restaurant in St. Charles has given her son a new lease on life.

And it's easy to see why. When an establishment gives a person with a disability the same chance to work as anyone else, it's a core value that doesn't go unnoticed.


"My son, who has Down syndrome and just transitioned out of school, had difficulty with landing a job, and difficulty with interviews," Bell said.

She knew Jewel-Osco had an excellent reputation for hiring young men and women facing life challenges, but it was Wok 'n Fire restaurant that stepped to the plate and offered a part-time job to her son, John "Johnny" Remitz.

"They hired John as a host, and he gets to wear a nice shirt and tie, which he loves to do," Bell said. "I am so pleased they reached out and provided this opportunity for John."

Not enough businesses are willing to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities, Bell said.

"I think Wok 'n Fire is setting an excellent example," she added. "The more exposure of disabled individuals there is, the more acceptance there will be."

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More than anything else, her son feels "valued and important" in his role as a host at the restaurant, Bell said.

Remitz is a 2011 graduate of St. Charles North High School and finished the Students Achieving Independent Living transition program at Elgin Community College in 2013.

Brian Donofrio, manager at Wok 'n Fire, is glad he gave the young man a chance.

"His older sisters worked for me, so that's how I got to know the family," Donofrio said. "I got to talking with him, and I would see how excited he got about helping the coaches of the high school basketball team, or when he was competing in swimming."

That same excitement has carried over to his work at the restaurant, Donofrio said.

"People love him. He already has regulars who come in looking for him," Donofrio said. "It's so nice and it lights up his face. The fact that we could help him do that and maybe obtain some skills that will help him in the future, it was a no-brainer for us to hire him."

Maks in Batavia: I've been voting for Maksim Chmerkovskiy on "Dancing With The Stars" for nearly 10 years, so naturally it was great to see him finally win it this past season with Olympic figure skating gold medalist Meryl Davis.


What's even greater is that Maks is scheduled to appear in Batavia from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at Aliano's Ristorante for a trunk showing of the Cantamessa men's jewelry line he is launching.

Those who want to meet Maks, and check out or purchase some of his jewelry, can obtain $35 tickets by calling the restaurant at (630) 406-9400. The event features hors d'oeuvres and wine for attendees.

Event organizers say the jewelry was initially designed for men, but women are finding it "attractive and wearable as well."

Is that code for telling women to "get down here and see Maks" and buy something for husbands or boyfriends?

Losing some coffee: Are there better locations for a coffee shop than where Caribou Coffee does business along Third and South streets in Geneva? The answer to that question is: Not many.

Yet Caribou will close its doors in a couple of months. And, at the time of this writing, no other coffee shop owner had secured a deal with Shodeen Management, which owns the building, to reopen at that location.

It will be a tough blow for those who spend a lot of time at this particular spot, and for visitors and others who find it to be a perfect place to stop along Third Street. This is especially true on Sundays during the summer when the farmers market is open in the nearby train station parking lot.

Here's hoping some type of an agreement can be reached to keep this spot a coffee shop.

Find those gyros: A reader sent a note lamenting the loss of Goody's in St. Charles because, in his opinion, the place served the best gyros in the area.

I like gyros, but they simply do not like me. My stomach tends to send the message of "please don't eat that" after I consume this Greek delicacy. So, I have to extend this reader's question to the rest of you.

If Goody's had the best gyros, who has the "second best" in the area? Or, in short, which restaurant has moved to the top of the gyros list? Send a note to my email address below, and we'll give all gyros lovers a few ideas.

Nice, artsy stroll: As usual, a stroll through Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles during the spring makes for an enjoyable half-hour or so.

That's about how long it takes to walk and look at the various sculptures that make up the St. Charles Park District's ninth annual Sculpture in the Park exhibit.

You don't see art like this in many other places, and this setting remains one of the nicest in the Tri-Cities.

The correct formula: The three-day Memorial Day weekend reminded us why we endure brutal winters -- a beautiful morning to walk around the farmers markets, nice days for an art show, a nice day for local parades.

It also called for a stop at the new Kilwins ice cream and fudge shop in Geneva, where I happily gobbled down a "Geneva Mud" sugar cone.

For those who are curious, Geneva Mud is a tasty vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips and caramel swirled into, well, a muddy and delicious texture.

Now we need to string together a bunch of these types of days, especially on weekends, for the next several months.

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