Launching Pad Drive-In put up for sale

The Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant of Wilmington, Ill., made famous by its 28-foot-tall astronaut Gemini Giant mascot that stands next to Route 66, has been put up for sale and appears to be closed at least temporarily.

Longtime Route 66 advocate John Weiss, a Wilmington resident, took note of the restaurant’s closing a few days ago during a posting on Facebook.

Pam Monson of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce & Industry said in an e-mail today that the restaurant announced two weeks ago it would be open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Then it abruptly announced it was closing for the holidays.

“What I’m being told by city officials … is that the business will be closed until February,” she wrote.

A little Google sleuthing turned up a real-estate listing for the restaurant in the New York Times, of all places. Amid the description of the property is this ominous sentence: “Wife says sell or else.” It’s been on the market since Nov. 28.

The asking price is $629,000, and the broker is Coldwell Banker.

Strangely enough, neither real-estate listing mentions the restaurant by name, nor its famed mascot, which seems to be a poor bit of marketing.

The description also contains this odd notation: “Highly Confidential! Do Not Bother Staff! They do not know of sale” — as if something like this on the Internet could be kept top-secret.

The restaurant is owned by Morey Szczecin of Channahon, Ill., who purchased it in May 2007.

The Free Press Newspapers reported in August that the City of Wilmington considered buying the restaurant after Szczecin put it up for sale for several months. However, he delisted the eatery from real-estate listings shortly before the article was published.

Monson said city officials no longer seem to be considering the purchase.

The creator of the restaurant, John Korelc, died just a few months later after Szczecin bought it. Korelc founded the cafe as the Dari Delite in 1960 and changed its name to the Launching Pad in 1965 — presumably after finding the fiberglass giant dressed as a spaceman and holding a small rocket. Korelc retired in 1986.

(Hat tip to Mark Potter)

12 thoughts on “Launching Pad Drive-In put up for sale

  1. I seem to recall that those giants were a prop outside the Midas Muffler chain stores during the 1970’s. The giant had a gold crown on his head and was holding giant muffler. Am I remembering correctly?

  2. I know nothing of this town, or business/property values. But does $629k strike anyone else as a little high for a small, reportedly a little tired, local small town restaurant?

  3. I don’t know the man but his actions seem just a bit mysterious. I was hoping to get down there and have lunch with some friends back in September but failed to do it. Does anybody know if this was still a going business?

    1. John, the business has been in decline since the new owner took over. The quality of the food was reportedly unfavorable, and there were hardly any cars in the parking lot no matter the time of day. It is sad…I hope that the owner comes to his senses, drops his price to a reasonable number, and a reputable owner sees the value and keeps our Rte. 66 icon.

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