It is possibly one of the most glamorized professions in the world. Television and movies have illustrated owning and running a restaurant as some kind of party or mob hangout. However, those ideals couldn’t be farther form the truth, especially for Elsberry Restaurant owners Rachel Chambers, Bill Rockwell, Robin Remmert-Stafstrom, Fay Mayes, Anne Marshall and Greg Pflasterer.
“We are now going on our seventh year here,” said Marshall, owner of the Dawg House on Broadway Street. “For us the hardest thing has been overcoming a bad reputation of what people think about a bar and grill. However, establishing a good, working relationship with the city has also been a difficult thing for us as well.”
According to Marshall, the previous bars in Elsberry were considered to be more on the rougher side of the things. But she said she has spent a lot of time trying to make her establishment more family friendly during the daytime.
“We want people to be able to come in and enjoy themselves,” explained Marshall. “We want people to enjoy their lunch or dinner and not have to worry about the stigmatisms or being a bar.”
Although the night time atmosphere is more of the bar, live band, pool-playing kind of environment, Marshall has implemented several changes in her menu to appease the hungry masses. With ten variety of wings, burgers and other sandwiches, she has definitely added more responsibility to her already full plate.
“I’m the bar-back, I’m the cook, I’m the bar-maid, the cleaner, the accountant… I mean I do it all,” explains Marshall. “I work just as hard as anybody else. I carry in my own beer on Friday and Saturday nights. I take out my own trash and mop my own floors. You have to be willing to work hard and I’m not above anybody else.”
However, Marshall is not the only one with a sink full of pots and pans. Chambers, owner of Rachel’s Restaurant off Hwy. 79, also
wears several hats within her business. When she opened her doors six-years ago, she really had no idea what she was getting herself into. In fact both her greatest challenge and her greatest reward has been succeeding.
“Everyone said we couldn’t do it,” said Chambers. “They said we wouldn’t make it past six months and now we’re going on six-years.”
But beyond the success of her establishment, family has also posed a huge challenge for her, as her day begins at 3:30 a.m. and doesn’t end until 8-9 p.m.
“I don’t have a life,” said Chambers. “My life is this restaurant. I am married to this place because once I go home I sit and do paper work. You don’t have a life and at times it can be too much.”
For Chambers, who is also a single parent, trying to balance her family life and her business can be heartbreaking at times. According to her, there have been times where she has barely made payroll or had to come out of pocket for things her landlord has refused to fix.
“Being a restaurant owner is not the glitz and glamor you see on TV,” said Chambers. “Now don’t get me wrong there are plenty of positives, like being able to see so many regular faces walk through our door. Being able to feel like a strong fixture within the community and knowing you have beaten the odds and found something your good at is a great feeling.”
Although Rachel’s is more of a regular hangout for the who’s who of Elsberry, it is not the only one making a name for itself. Cadillac Bill’s, which also opened their doors seven years ago, has quickly become a classic car junkie’s heaven, with their themed menu and car show events. They are also home to the Coupe Deville Burger, which is a four-patty burger that will leave many not wanting much more.
“It was really my son’s idea to make this place what it is,” explained Rockwell, owner of Cadillac Bill’s Classic Burger. “He wanted a classic burger, the old time nostalgic theme to stay in Elsberry. Everything seemed to be changing and we wanted to keep something in town that had been here for years.”
Rockwell went on to explain how they really started by mimicking the old Dairy Queens. It wasn’t until later that the car theme kind of came about. But when it did, Rockwell said it took off like “gangbusters.”
Don’t get me wrong, everyday is a challenge,” said Rockwell. “The winter time, floods, help; even though I’ll have to knock on wood and say that I’ve had some of the best help one could ask for. But when you own a restaurant, especially in a smaller community, everything creates a challenge and at times can leave you wondering how you’ll break even at the end of the day, if you break even at all.”
Rockwell said one of the greatest advantages for him, other than living less than a block away from his establishment, has been the support of not just the community and car enthusiasts but having that somewhat original theme.
“It’s just not something you see a whole lot of anymore,” said Rockwell. “But at the same token we are a grease spot. We deep fry items, we hand make our patties; we are a very classic place. So if your trying to watch your calories, we are probably not the best place for you to eat.”
Another challenge of being a restaurant owner is making sure everything is stocked and that all the essential equipment is working.
“I’ll come in first thing in the morning to check everything. I want to make sure our fridges and grills are running properly. I will go over the paperwork and take inventory and if we don’t have it, get it ordered or if we run out, I’ll have to go and get what we may need.”
According to Rockwell, it has it’s fun moments and he meets some of the greatest people, but like Marshall said, it is work and a
lot of it.
But hard work seems to be the common reply between all of these owners. Even for Berni’s Pizza owner Greg Pflasterer, it’s like having two marriages, one to the family and one to the business. When Berni’s opened approximately seven years ago, Pflasterer said he wanted a place that would appeal to families and students alike.
“I wanted a place where people could come enjoy a good meal and still have fun,” said Pflasterer. “I started this place from the ground floor, which allowed us to really do what we wanted to. I wanted a hometown feel and being as I was born and raised here, I want an Elsberry feel to it.”
One of the things Pflasterer says he does that is unique to him, is people are able to 100 percent customize their orders.
“There are things people order that aren’t on my menu, which causes trouble sometimes because my help don’t always know what we’re doing, but I wanted our customers to be able to have that,” said Pflasterer. “I wanted it to be more family and a place where someone could come and just feel welcome.”
However, one of the biggest challenges for Pflasterer, which is also one of his greatest accomplishments is being that Elsberry fixture and maintaining that sense of community involvement. In fact, most of his employees are or were Elsberry students.
“I wanted to be able to give something to our kids that would teach them responsibility and still allow them to have fun,” said Pflasterer. “And believe me at times, that comes with it’s own set of challenges, but what I’ve learned is no family is perfect, they all have issues but we get through them and it works.”
Family seems to be the key for most of the Elsberry restaurants. Even for the baby of the bunch, Broadway Flowers and Fountain, who just opened their doors March 1. Unlike the rest of the restaurants in Elsberry, Broadway Flowers and Fountain was not built with the intent of becoming a restaurant, which caused it’s own set of challenges.
“We came into this knowing we wanted to build a stable income out of this and the only way we knew we could do it was through multitasking,” said Remmert-Stafstrom co-owner of Broadway Flowers and Fountain. “We knew that the fountain and the flowers would not be enough to bring in the customers, at least not the way we want them to come in, so we, or I should say Mike Dequiros, came up with a simple deli style menu that would allow people to come in, relax, eat and still make it back to work on time.”
Without an oven or a stove, the biggest challenge really was the menu, according to Remmert-Stafstrom and co-owner Mayes. Trying to keep it simple, fast and still accommodate what could be done in the building. However, on the weekends the doors open and the smell of BBQ can be caught for blocks around.
No matter the theme or the challenges each one of these owners face, the one thing they all said in common, is that without the support of the community, none of it would be possible.
“If you don’t support your community and their needs they won’t support you,” said Mayes. “I think all of us do this because, yes, we love it, but also because we are giving back what we can to those who have given us all so much and for that we want to say thank you.”
For more on this and other stories pick up your copy of The Elsberry Democrat today from one of our several locations. You can also sign up for the online edition by visiting http://elsberrydemocrat.com and clicking on Subscribe …