BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP – The new owners of Fishermen’s Inn have spent the last year restoring the grounds and the buildings, and their goal is for the historic restaurant to open in stages.
Mark and Patricia Southern of Big Rock Township bought the restaurant and banquet hall in October 2012. Fishermen’s Inn, at 43W901 Main Street Road, just west of Route 47, had closed in December 2009 after being in business for 40 years.
The restaurant’s former owner, the late Ralph Schleifer, was Patricia’s great-uncle.
“We’ve had it a year, and we are working through the process of understanding the potential,” Mark Southern said. “At this point, it’s just not feasible – based on our experience – to pull out a full a la cart restaurant.”
Instead, the business will focus on weddings, and they’ve had 30 booked so far, with the first one set for April 12, he said.
And they will do one wedding at a time before developing other events, he said.
“We want to do that right, one event at a time,” Southern said. “The first step will be the banquet wedding facility, then we graduate and move on. That is our process. We just have to be smart. ... The restaurant business is a tough business, and we do not want to get it started and have a short life. Our goal is to make it a cornerstone of Kane County.”
That said, perhaps as soon as the middle of 2014, the inn will be able to host the public on various indoor-outdoor patios and with small plates of appetizers and drinks, he said.
“It’s just such a big animal, a very large building and a very large undertaking,” Southern said. “We want this to be successful. We are putting our heart and soul into making it that.”
The next step would be to host parties open to the public by reservations, a concept that would keep pricing down and control waste.
“We intend on having public events and dinners for special events – parties where the public is invited, requiring reservations,” Southern said. “A plated meal or a buffet ... it could be a local country meal using beef and veggies from local farms ... or a seafood night with fresh seafood flown in.”