The Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant in Wilmington, Illinois — best-known for its 30-foot-tall Gemini Giant fiberglass statue next to Route 66 — failed to sell during an auction Saturday because the reserve wasn’t met.
The Will County News reported Tina and Joel Brownlee of Wilmington, who submitted the high bid of $177,500, will negotiate with auctioneer Jim Bednar and the owner to see whether a deal can be worked out.
The news outlet reported:
After the auction, Brownlee said she grew up in Wilmington “and enjoyed the Launching Pad.” Her family would like to see the restaurant “come back to life.”
Tina Brownlee has worked at Wilmington High School for more than 20 years, so she knows about the community’s fondness for the restaurant.
The Launching Pad has been for sale since 2010.
According to property-tax records, Brian Szczecin of Romeoville, Illinois, owns the property. Its assessed value is only $89,129.
Considering the Launching Pad’s assessed value, the chronic inability to move the property and its long closure, Szczecin ought to strongly consider taking the Brownlees’ offer.
The Launching Pad and Gemini Giant were inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 2000. It long has been one of the biggest photo opportunities for Route 66 travelers.
John and Betty Korelc opened a Dairy Delite at the site in 1960. It was renamed the Launching Pad after an expansion in 1965. The Gemini Giant statue landed there in 1965 after John Korelc saw a Muffler Man during a restaurant convention. Most Muffler Men were cowboys or lumberjacks. Korelc had his made so it looked liked an astronaut. John Korelc retired in 1986.
Morey Szczecin bought the property in 2007 after longtime owners Jerry and Sharon Gatties retired. But the restaurant struggled, closed in 2010 and was put up for sale with an asking price of $650,000, with no takers.
UPDATE: Free Press Newspapers published a good at-the-scene report about the auction and its aftermath, so far.
(Image of the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Illinois, by Sam Johnson via Flickr)