RANTOUL — Like sausage and gravy, Ott’s is a longtime staple in north Rantoul. But now someone else will be at the helm.
Carrie Hennigh and Linda Carico — Rantoul natives both — signed the papers Monday morning to buy the popular restaurant located at 400 N. Century Blvd. from Tony and Ashley Grilo of Thomasboro.
Hennigh and Carico took over the restaurant Tuesday morning.
Tony Grilo said a desire to spend more time with his family played a big part in the decision.
“When we bought it, we’d just had (son) Grayson at the time,” he said. “I was still in kind of my old ways of running and gunning all the time.”
Since then, the Grilos had a second child, and Grilo didn’t want to miss a minute of his children’s wonder years.
“My fear was always there would come a time some Saturday when the kids would have baseball or softball and somebody calls in sick for the restaurant,” and he would have to miss their game. “I don’t ever want to have to be put in the position of having to choose between the restaurant and the kids,” who are ages 6 and 4, he said.
Carico said she and Hennigh had talked with Grilo last year about buying Ott’s but couldn’t come to an agreement. Then, when Carico returned home from living in North Carolina for 20 years, she told Hennigh she thought it was time to broach the subject again. This time, the deal happened.
The new owners will maintain the name and the menu and begin delivery service in Rantoul.
“We’ll deliver out to the local factories as well as banks and flower shops and your grandmother,” Hennigh said.
The hours will remain at 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Hennigh said they might start evening hours at some point.
She praised the health department for allowing them to remain open, although no changes can be made until the place is inspected in a few weeks.
“We’re going to be painting the inside and outside,” Hennigh said. “Once we get our health department approval, we’re going to install a dishwasher and some new flooring, and we’re going to add some specials to our menu.”
Carico said she and Hennigh both have a great deal of restaurant experience.
“We’re bringing Ott’s back to the way it was,” Carico said.
Hennigh said they hope to retain the entire staff.
Grilo said keeping staff has not been a problem post-pandemic. He said he actually had more trouble getting workers before COVID-19 hit. He said his staff treated the place like their own and not just a place to work.
He is excited about the change.
“I think it’s the right move for the restaurant. I’m super excited about it as it grows. That’s the biggest thing. I think Ott’s has so much potential.”
The Grilos bought the restaurant in 2016 from Doug and Matt Mayer, whose father and grandfather, respectively, started the business in the early 1960s.
Grilo, who is operations manager at Volo Broadband, Urbana, would help at the restaurant when needed. He said he will miss talking to customers.
“I really loved talking to people and being around people, getting to know everybody,” Grilo said.
He said taking over as boss wasn’t a piece of cake.
“It’s not easy for a 29-year-old kid to buy a restaurant and tell someone who’s been there 35 years what to do,” he said.
Now Grilo will have to learn to relax a little more. He knows it won’t be easy and is already making plans.
“Those who know me know I don’t like to sit back and do nothing for too long,” he said, adding he would like to get involved at Thomasboro Grade School, possibly as a mentor.