For the past three years, Leah Pettit has provided Southern-style cooking for catering events.
This fall, she plans to bring that same cuisine to a restaurant setting in Urbana.
Pettit plans to open Louie's BBQ and Dixie Kitchen at 1104 N. Cunningham Ave., U, once the current occupant — El Toro — moves north to the former Montana Mike's at 1601 N. Cunningham Ave., U.
El Toro owner Martin Fuentes said the move will likely come in October.
Pettit said her restaurant will serve pulled pork, Italian beef, macaroni and cheese, slaw dogs, po' boys, hamburgers and Louisiana favorites such as red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya, ribs, catfish, shrimp, fried green tomatoes and barbecued nachos.
She plans to be open for breakfast too, serving country-style breakfasts including eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, omelets and grits.
Pettit said she has operated a catering business, Louie's Southern BBQ and Comfort Food, the last three years. Besides catering, she has taken the food to fairs and festivals.
"Now I'm taking that concept out of catering and moving it into bricks-and-mortar," she said. "It's something I've wanted to do ever since I opened the catering side of it."
As for decor at the new location, Pettit said her intended theme is "best described as a Louisiana swamp shack."
Projected hours for Louie's are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, with brunch being served Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The restaurant will be closed Sundays.
In addition to Louie's catering business, which does casual catering, Pettit has a more formal catering service, CaterMe Events, which leases the kitchen at the Refinery in Champaign.
She said once Louie's opens in Urbana, she will continue operating CaterMe Events, and it will provide "everything from casual to formal."
Pettit said she plans to launch a project on the Kickstarter funding site to help the new venture get off the ground. More information about that will be made available on her website, http://www.louiesbbq.com, as the project develops.
Taffie's gets new owner
Taffie's Restaurant, at 301 S. Mattis Ave., C, is under new ownership — but the same management.
General Manager Jeremy Van Matre purchased Taffie's from the Pomonis family, effective Aug. 1.
"The lease was up after 35 years, and I had no intention of re-signing," said Tony Pomonis, son of restaurant founder Anastase "Stacy" Pomonis, who died July 10. "There were lots of employees and clientele I care about, and the general manager was interested in purchasing the restaurant," said Pomonis, who plans to devote himself to his four Merry-Ann's Diner restaurants.
Since the deal took place, Van Matre said he made slight changes, switching brands of coffee and changing from Pepsi to Coke products.
He has added hot dogs, corn dogs and half-waffles to the kids' menu and plans to add a couple sandwiches to the regular menu.
One change important to night owls: Taffie's now closes at 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, rather than 10 p.m.
Van Matre said he worked for Stacy Pomonis for 14 years at Taffie's, first as a cook and the past seven years as a manager.
Tony Pomonis said his father opened the first of six Taffie's restaurants in 1977, launching the one on Mattis Avenue in 1979.
Others were located at Springfield Avenue and Neil Street in Champaign, on Green Street in Champaign's Campustown, and in Springfield, Effingham and Rantoul.
Pomonis described Taffie's as "a family restaurant with an emphasis on breakfast foods and American favorites." He said Taffie's was very much his father's "baby," but said his own heart lies with Merry-Ann's.
Grand reopening at Sam's Club
You may remember reading last March about a $2 million building permit for work at Sam's Club in Champaign.
Well, this Friday you'll get an opportunity to see the fruits of that labor.
Sam's Club is holding a grand re-opening following a 22-week "total remodeling."
The store at 915 W. Marketview Drive, C, remained open during that time, with most of the remodeling work done at night.
Grand reopening ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. Friday, with cake being served and checks being presented to community groups. Tours will be given from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day, Marketing Manager Adam Crews said.
Virtually all the store's departments remain in place, though the grocery and pharmacy sections have been expanded. Seasonal merchandise is now located in the front of the store, Crews said.
Karen's Cheesecake Confections will open Tuesday in the Senator's Inn, 801 N. Dunlap Ave., Savoy.
Owner Karen Mikle makes gourmet mini-cheesecakes in nine flavors, and also offers those flavors hand-dipped in chocolate.
The most popular flavors? Turtle and Heath bar, she says, but she thinks some new choices — green tea and toffee mocha — will quickly become favorites.
Mikle has offered her mini-cheesecakes at other locations in the past — at Ants in the Pants in Champaign about six years ago and at the Taco Shack in Tolono about two years ago.
During the shop's grand opening Tuesday at the Senator's Inn, light snacks will be available, and customers can sit and have coffee and other drinks for $1.
Hours for the shop will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Karen's Cheesecake Confections can be reached at 550-2107 or 607-1309.
Orange and blue options
Sandi Jones of Champaign has opened All Things Illini, an Internet-based business that offers all sorts of orange-and-blue merchandise — including many products made by UI alums.
There's Illini bubble bath, baby booties, pacifiers, scarves, muffin pans, silk ties, pet beds — even an Illini game day platter.
One of the pricier offerings is the Illini Darling It's You! Purse, listed for $450. It was designed for All Things Illini by UI alum Julia Stackler, founder of Darlington Originals. The purse is a custom-made blue leather bag with orange flowered lining.
To view the products, go to http://www.allthingsillini.com.
Hardees set for October
The franchisee for the Hardees restaurant opening at 1806 W. Bradley Ave., C, says it should begin serving in October.
Cameron Miller, vice president of operations for Frontier Star, which has 58 Hardees franchises in the Midwest, said the new restaurant will be open 24 hours a day.
About 40 percent of Frontier Star's Hardees operate around-the clock, he said.
The store on Bradley Avenue will employ about 50 to 65 people, with hiring expected to begin in mid-September, he said.
Frontier Star is based in Guadalupe, Ariz.
Coming to St. Joseph
Look for The Country Lamb to open in St. Joseph this fall, probably in October.
The shop, which will be operated by Jim and Kathleen Gilliland of Ogden, will carry primitives, some antiques, reproductions of antique furniture, period lighting, candles, Christmas items, handmade ornaments and more.
Kathleen Gilliland, who recently retired as a trauma nurse, said she doesn't want to carry what can be found at other markets.
"It has to be different — unique and special," she said.
The shop will occupy the east storefront of the Masonic building at 228 E. Lincoln St.
The Gillilands once operated a shop, Uniquely Country, next to their home in Ogden, and in more recent years sold their merchandise at shows.
Kathleen Gilliland said she chose The Country Lamb name because she loves sheep.
In southwest Champaign...
Construction is expected to start in the next couple weeks on a new office for Regency Apartments.
The new 6,400-square-foot building will go up at 2417 Fields South Drive, C — just up the street from the new Champaign County YMCA and across the road from Regency's 316-unit Windsor West apartment community.
Regency Apartments CEO Bob Pratten said Regency bought 5 acres north of the YMCA and subdivided it into three lots for office development. Regency is building on one lot and offering the other two along Windsor Road for sale.
Regency Apartments has 17 employees in its Champaign office at 1701 Broadmoor Drive, and Pratten said the number could grow. He said the company expects to be in its new home by February.
Consignment shop expands
Copasetic Consignments, located inside Carrie's Antiques & Jewelry at 204 N. Neil St., C, has expanded its space, taking an additional 400 square feet.
Copasectic owner Lisa Gundersen said she has increased the store's selection of vintage and contemporary furniture and home accents.
Hours for Copasectic are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Grand opening slated
Atwood Sporting Goods will celebrate its first anniversary with a "grand opening" during Atwood's Apple Dumpling Festival on Aug. 17-18.
The shop, at 117 N. Main St. in Atwood, will sponsor a throwing contest in which contestants use an atlatl, a dart- or spear-throwing device.
Contestants from the "Ammo and Attitude" TV show are expected to be on hand Saturday. Also visiting: cowboy action shooters from the Single Action Shooting Society.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, the shop plans to raffle off a revolver, with proceeds going to the Douglas County Health Department for breast cancer programs and the mobile mammogram machine, according to store manager Heath Fleener. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased at either the health department or the store.
Contact Don Dodson at 351-5227 or 800-252-3346; by email at dodsonnews-gazette.com; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.