This week’s stop in our video series on local businesses with stories to tell: Champaign’s Original Pancake House, a decades-old breakfast joint that's constantly expanding.
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Eric Faulkner jokes that he’s not going to allow his “Coffee Guy” to retire. But just in case, the longtime owner of Champaign’s popular Original Pancake House has set up a retirement fund of sorts for Lester Lindsey.
Restaurant owner Eric Faulkner says Lester Lindsey, who's worked at the eatery for 16 years and for him for 26, left an impression from the day in 1992 when he applied to work at Faulkner's previous spot, the Elite Diner in Urbana.
A year ago — on the heels of Lindsey’s Tourism Impact Award, which you read about in these pages — Faulkner made available coffee mugs decorated with an image of Lester’s, well, mug. To date, about 300 have been sold, with $5 from each purchase set aside for the guy with the “infectious smile and laugh,” Faulkner said, as well as a street sign above his station at the restaurant on Springfield Avenue.
Employees like Lester give the restaurant street cred among a crowd of all ages. Half the staff of 55, Faulkner said, has been there more than a decade (on Feb. 1, 2020, Faulkner will mark 20 years of ownership).
It’s one reason why the Original Pancake House has expanded a remarkable four times in eight years, bringing capacity from 138 to 246.
“We’re an old, familiar, established restaurant,” Faulkner said. ”With every expansion, I’ve maintained the familiar, but at the same time, I’ve updated. It hasn’t died, it hasn’t got old. This is a 43-year-old business that is at the peak of its prime.”