White Fence Farm in Romeoville has lost $2.4 million since the pandemic began

The owner of the original White Fence Farm in Romeoville, Illinois, said the Route 66 restaurant has lost $2.4 million in 12 months since the pandemic began last year and still is trying to survive since it reopened in March.

A reporter of the Lemont Patch interviewed third-generation owner Laura Hastert, who admitted she needs help from locals and regulars to stay alive after the main location at 1376 Joliet Road (aka Route 66) closed for a year:

What was once a familiar-faced staff of 125 employees is now a group of about 40 workers who have stuck with Hastert through the difficult times. Hastert is hoping to provide jobs to employees who could help the restaurant return to its former self as seating capacities continue to expand in coming months. But she needs help.
In a Facebook post, the restaurant asked local customers to support the business by shopping local — a mantra that has been repeated continuously across the country since the pandemic began last March. […]
“We weren’t one of the restaurants that could say, ‘Now we can open at 25 percent, now we can open at 10 percent, we can do outdoor dining,’ because it was like a dog chasing its tail the way it was going on again, off again and then the next day they’re like, ‘No, you’ve got to close,'” Hastert said. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t know who could run a business that way. God bless those people who tried.”

The restaurant survived with takeout orders and Payroll Protection Program funds and has applied for the Restaurant Revitalization grant program.

Hastert said she didn’t want to reopen because she didn’t want customers contracting COVID-19 there. She relented in March when one of her managers told her the business would go under if it didn’t reopen soon.

But conditions still are tough:

“We’re still here trying to serve strong, but we need help like everybody. […] We’re getting by, but we want to keep these families working.”
She added, “Our place has been an institution and a landmark in this area 30 miles south of Chicago and you said, ‘White Fence Farm’ and I guarantee everyone is going to say, ‘Oh my God, I know that place.’ We’re just trying to stay alive like everybody else. We all need help. We’re all tired.”

Stuyvesant “Jack” Peabody, CEO of Peabody Coal, founded White Fence Farm was founded at its original location in the early 1920s, a few years before U.S. 66 was federally certified. Since 1954, the restaurant has been owned and operated by the Hastert family.

(Hat tip to Marla “Lulu” Bagdon; an image of White Fence Farm in Romeoville, Illinois, via Facebook)

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