“My parents saw a future in this town.
“For 40 years, we paid our dues in taxes, property taxes. We’ve created value. Everybody’s brother and sister has worked for us locally. For most of them, it’s their first job.
“Good times, hard times, we went through it all. We actually helped the village. My parents provided food and drinks for them for 20 consecutive years, where they came in once a year and ate for free and drank for free. Because we loved working with the village of Fox River Grove.
“The mayor and the village administrator asked me to come in for a meeting.
“They wrote a number on a piece of paper: $332,000. I was like, ‘What?’ They said, ‘Yeah, that is what your property is worth. We checked the market value and we think this is comparable.’ And I’m thinking to myself – I didn’t know enough about eminent domain to argue with them at that point – I’m thinking: God, my building is worth more burnt than what you’re offering.
“All I know how to do is cook food. I’m not here to study law.
“The fact that they don’t even have a redeveloper – if I needed a business loan, and I don’t have a business plan, do you think they would give me a loan going into a bank?
“It’s not up to the village to find me something. I have to look for something. With that much square footage, with the equipment that I just put in [the kitchen] four years ago after the fire, is it gonna retrofit at the new location?
“At this point, I don’t know if I can trust Fox River Grove.
“But in order to stay alive, I gotta stay within five, six miles of my clientele. I can’t move three towns away and expect people to follow. Because that would be like a new beginning. I would have to restart it. I don’t plan on retiring, but the village is retiring me at this point. I got about eight to 10 years of work left.
“I’m just here to protect what my family has started. You’re taking away my bread and butter.
“If it’s happened here, it can happen anywhere.”
Fox River Grove, Illinois