Economy, other problems force closure of Papa George

CHAMPAIGN – Valerie and George Pyle got the word to some of their 30 employees Sunday. The rest would see the sign when they came in Monday.

The Pyles' restaurant, Papa George, at 505 S. Neil St., C, is closing. Its last day open is expected to be Friday, Valerie Pyle said.

Urbana Meijer store to open on Wednesday

URBANA – The new Meijer store at the northeast corner of Philo and Windsor roads is expected to open for business Wednesday following a 7 a.m. ribbon cutting.


Agency: Gill expansion to boost local economy by $17.8 million a year

CHAMPAIGN – Gill Athletics' recently announced expansion in Champaign is likely to boost the local economy by $17.8 million a year, according to projections by the Champaign County Economic Development Corp.

Besides moving 85 jobs to the Champaign area, the expansion is expected to create 56 other jobs in the community as a result of products and services bought by Gill and its employees, the development group said.

Papa George restaurant to close Friday

CHAMPAIGN – Valerie and George Pyle got the word to some of their 30 employees Sunday. The rest would see the sign when they came in Monday.

The Pyles' restaurant, Papa George, at 505 S. Neil St., C, is closing. Its last day open is expected to be Friday, Valerie Pyle said.

Do-it-yourself approach yields successful businesses

DANVILLE – On a hot day in 1950s Detroit, a young Jim Darby had just finished digging a grave by hand in Gethsemane Cemetery when he sat down on the cool clay at the bottom of the massive hole and contemplated his future.

"I wonder if this is what I'm going to do my whole life?" he thought.

Turns out, the answer was "yes" and "no."

"I've never been out of the cemetery since," says "Big Jim" Darby, now 70.

While he hasn't spent much time digging graves in the last 50 years or so, Darby has built, along with family and dedicated employees, a successful cemetery and funeral-home business that's branched out over the years in some high-tech ways.

Restaurant supply runs in blood of KECdesign's founders

CHAMPAIGN – Dan Proctor grew up in the restaurant-supply business. So perhaps it's no surprise his company today is furnishing the kitchens of restaurants, hotels and day care centers nationwide.

KECdesign, based in Champaign's Apollo Industrial Subdivision, supplies kitchen equipment for the Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches chain. The company also supplied equipment for such high-profile local projects as the Memorial Stadium renovation, Houlihan's Restaurant and the I Hotel and Conference Center.

Eat, sleep and gas up at unique sites along U.S. highways

With no fish boil in sight, Greg Martell opts for The Fish Wagon.

"I'm originally from Wisconsin and I live in Indiana now. Nobody has fish boils or fish fries there," Martell says. "That's hard when you love fish."

So when he's in Illinois twice a year for work at the Stone Ridge Dairy in rural Mansfield, he stops regularly at The Fish Wagon in Farmer City.

"I come to Stone Ridge once in the spring and once in the fall. And every Friday and Saturday night – this is where I eat," Martell adds as he places an order at The Fish Wagon window.

The Fish Wagon is owned and operated by Kevin and Hope Castle. It's a mobile example of roadside architecture – a restaurant on wheels. More precisely, it's a takeout diner in what used to be a motor home.

"This is something that came about on its own and it has taken on a life of its own," Hope Castle says. "This is our 10th year here."

The Fish Wagon is a modern-day twist on the horse-drawn lunch wagons that are the forerunner of the diner. The wagons would park in front of factories and offer reasonably priced lunches to workers. Before long, the wagons were parked in permanent locations and by the 1930s had evolved into the streamlined diner.

Roadside architecture is also sometimes called roadside Americana or even roadside archaeology. It is a wide and varied category, from stainless steel-sheathed diners to tile-roofed, mission-style gas stations to log-cabin motel cottages – all tied to America's love of the automobile and travel. A summary in three words: eat, sleep, gas.

It's Your Business: El Toro Bravo offers Mexican dining for 374

El Toro Bravo, the new and larger restaurant built by the owners of El Toro restaurants, is open for business at 2561 W. Springfield Ave., C, near Kaufman Lake.

It is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and eventually the bar will be open later, said Victor Fuentes, an owner of the family owned group of Mexican restaurants.

Learning to stick with it

Though tempted to quit by visit home, cadet makes choice to finish his studies

EDITOR'S NOTE – This is the third of an occasional series by News-Gazette staff writer Tim Mitchell about the young men and women who attend Lincoln's Challenge Academy in Rantoul. Lincoln's Challenge is a program for high school dropouts operated by the Illinois National Guard. Students live in a military environment for 22 weeks on the former Chanute Air Force Base while completing an education program geared to finishing high school. More than 10,000 have graduated from the program since 1993.

University president seeks to expand Global Campus program

Global Campus, the University of Illinois' online education initiative, is headed for a restructuring less than a year after its launch.

UI President B. Joseph White is proposing to make the Global Campus a fourth campus, a fully accredited one separate from the others in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield. Accreditation would mean Global Campus could one day award its own degrees.