It's Your Business: Checkers headed for C-U


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A fast-food chain with restaurants in 28 states is getting ready to start serving burgers and fries in Champaign-Urbana.

Bruce Kim, director of franchise development for Checkers and Rally's Restaurants, said the company is in the process of awarding a franchise for up to three new Checkers restaurants in the area.

"We are a quick-service restaurant," he said. "We are known for our seasoned, seared and grilled burgers; fries; grilled, all-meat hot dogs; crazy good chicken wings; golden fish sandwiches; and ice cream.

"Our seasoned fries were named the best fries for 2015 by Yahoo."

Kim said Checkers restaurants typically stay open late, with most of them serving customers in their double drive-thru until 2 or 3 a.m.

The Tampa, Fla.-based chain has 828 locations nationwide, and the website Thrillist recently named Checkers the fastest-growing fast-food chain in Illinois.

Kim said the chain is up to 20 Checkers restaurants and seven Rally's restaurants in the state, and the next step is to start building stores in Champaign County.

"There is plenty of room to grow, and we are trying to build several locations in Champaign-Urbana," Kim said. "Our studies show we have room for three stores, with our growth franchise-driven."

"The community has a good, solid income base, good ethnic diversity and lots of university students. College students love our food," Kim said.

"We have been getting a lot of requests from social media to build in Champaign."

He said the typical Checkers restaurant employs 20 to 25 people.

Once a franchise has been identified for the area, probably by this summer, Kim expects specific restaurant sites will be identified.

"We hope to have the first Checkers built in Champaign by the end of the year," he said.

Originally Checkers and Rally's were separate companies, with Checkers serving the Southeast and Rally's serving the Midwest. Checkers and Rally's merged in 1999.

Roaring '20s in Tuscola

A new lounge that has opened on Tuscola's south side gives guests a taste of the Roaring '20s.

Oh, yeah. And you can get a haircut and go gambling while you are there.

Prohibitions opened in a former insurance building at 802 S. Main St. on Jan. 15.

"It's a 1920s-themed whiskey-cigar lounge," said co-owner Richard Stemle. "But we're also going to serve some old-school pub food."

Stemle brings years of experience as a chef at Kofusion, Radio Maria, Campus Cooks, Biaggi's and Silvercreek.

"My partner, Bob Woodward, doesn't know anything about whiskey, cigars or food," Stemle said. "I had my resume online, and he contacted me back in September. He asked me if I was interested, and I said, 'Yes.'"

The lounge is filled with Roaring '20s ambiance, from a buffalo rug to a deer head, old-fashioned telephone and a genuine player piano.

"I am going to add some old-time, saloon-styled doors to the bar, and we plan to install some all-hardwood floors at a later date," he said.

One room includes an old-time barber chair, where staff barber Jason Armstrong is ready to clip guests' hair.

"While you come here to get a drink, you can also get a haircut, too," Stemle said. "It's all part of the experience."

For those guests who like to gamble, another room has five video gaming machines.

Eventually, the lounge will include a walk-in cedar wood humidor and dining area.

Prohibitions is open from 9 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.

"We will probably eventually extend our hours to 1 a.m. at a later date," Stemle said.

Innovation Center opens

The CEB Data Innovation Center at Research Park at the University of Illinois held its grand opening at 1800 S. Oak St., C, last week.

CEB is an Arlington, Va.-based management consulting firm that provides leaders at more than 10,000 companies with the intelligence to manage talent, customers and operations.

The new UI facility, a data analytics innovation center, will be home to nearly a dozen undergraduate and graduate students working on emerging technologies, including natural language processing, machine learning and data visualization.

"We're establishing our Data Innovation Center at Research Park because students here have the skills and drive to expand our market-leading talent analytics portfolio," said CEB chief administrative officer Melody Jones. 

The firm provides analytics for everything from location planning to individual candidate selection.

"It's exciting to see a corporation like CEB, which is in the business of recognizing and fostering talent, come to Illinois to tap into the culture of innovation at the Research Park," interim UI Chancellor Barbara Wilson said.

Tea Time in Tolono

Tolono is getting a new bakery.

Tami Welsh of Tuscola said she hopes to open Tea Time Bakery at 307 N. Long St. (U.S. 45) in mid-April.

The location is familiar to area residents since the building was the home of Judy's Sweets until September 2015.

Welsh, 39, said her mother taught her to bake when she was a young girl, and baking has been a lifelong joy for her.

"Of course, we will have all the traditional items, like cupcakes, cakes, brownies, teas and coffees," Welsh said.

And you can special order a birthday cake from Welsh.

"We are going to feature a lot of gluten-free and low-carb items," she said. "I want to have a healthy selection of items."

Welsh said she decided to open the shop because of its location on U.S. 45.

"We hope to attract a lot of commuters on their way to work," she said. "And since Tolono doesn't have a grocery store, we can be a place you can come to grab some snacks," she said.

The store's name is a variation on Tami's nickname.

"I have worked for Horizon Hobby for 18 years, and everybody knows me as 'T.' So I decided to make it part of my business's name," she said

Bemount gets green flag

A veteran motor sports mechanic has opened a business selling certain parts for race cars.

Kyle Bemount launched Bemount Performance at 409 W. Bradley St., Thomasboro, a month ago.

Bemount is a veteran race car driver, competing at the wheel of his 2000 Trans Am in races in Charleston and around the country since 2008.

He also teaches part time in Parkland College's motor sports program.

Bemount said he was frustrated about having to wait days for parts to arrive for his race car, so he decided to start this business in his garage.

"I sell performance fuel lines, AN fittings, fuel delivery/brake lines and other parts for race cars." he said. "I specialize in parts involved with the fuel delivery and plumbing of a car."

For more information, call Bemount at 781-2392.

Photo business in Urbana

J.D. Maloney Photography began operations in Urbana on Jan. 1.

The company is basically a two-person operation, with owner J.D. Maloney snapping pictures and his wife, Hilarie, serving as his assistant.

"I have been doing photography on the side for the last five or six years," said Maloney, who also works as an engineer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Maloney specializes in weddings, senior photos, family shots and travel photos.

Maloney advises engaged couples to contact him as soon as possible about their photo needs.

"I'm already booked for three-quarters of the weekends for the whole year," he said.

He only needs a couple weeks' notice for senior or family photo shoots.

"It is fun getting to meet people and hear their stories," he said.

Contact Maloney at

Chess Cafe opening

The Queens and Kings Chess Club will host central Illinois' newest Chess Cafe from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays, beginning April 10, at Dr. G's BrainWorks in Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana.

Organizers said the goal of the Chess Cafe is to allow players of all ages and levels a weekly place to meet one another and to play and learn more about chess.

It will meet at the Courtyard at Lincoln Square Mall by Piato's.

The weekly event will be free. For more information go to or call 607-2427.

Affordable used cars

A recent study by the firm and website Autolist has found that Illinois may be one of the more affordable places to buy used cars.

A report by Autolist ranks Illinois the 14th most affordable state when it comes to buying a used vehicle.

Autolist is a metasearch platform that pulls together data from across the Internet.

Alex Klein, vice president of data science for Autolist, said his company has analyzed 4.5 million used car listings and looked at more than 3 billion data points over the last three years to gain data on used car sales.

Klein said the study showed there are "statistically significant differences in used car prices across the U.S."

So we asked Klein what are the five best relative bargains for buying used vehicles in Illinois, and this is what his computers churned out:

1. On average, a used Infiniti QX60 can be purchased in Illinois for $1,772 below the national average.

2. The Nissan Xterra can be bought in Illinois $835 below the national average.

3. In Illinois, a Dodge Dakota will set you back $702 below the national average.

4. The Cadillac CTS can be purchased in Illinois for $717 below the national average.

5. On average a Toyota Corolla will cost $444 below the national average in Illinois.

Contact Tim Mitchell at 217-351-5366; by email at; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.