Local restaurants could see a change in customer numbers

NORMAL - Local restaurants in the Twin Cities could see a change in numbers as more businesses are settling in the area.

"In addition to all these new restaurants, Bloomington-Normal has quite a few restaurants that have just recently opened, within the last one to two years,” said Austin Grammer, Bloomington Economic Development Coordinator. “Fort Jesse Cafe on Fort Jesse Road in Normal has been very popular."

Fort Jesse Cafe opened in November, 2015. Co-owner of the café, Abby Strader, said people like going to new places to eat, and she sees chain restaurants as friendly competition.

"I want people to enjoy good food,” said Strader. “And that's a little healthy competition never hurts anybody. But at the same time, I feel like, you know, people want to go to the chain stores and enjoy those great meals, to also balance it with eating locally and supporting the local businesses too."

Strader said there's one thing that sets Fort Jesse Café apart from the chains, character. The Twin Cities native said she always wanted to open a business in the area.

"We've gotten a lot of questions like, why did you open this here, why didn't you take this to Chicago?, you know. And it's just silly because why would we take it to Chicago? They have a ton of great, locally owned restaurants. I think that Bloomington-Normal deserves to eat good food, you know. So we opened it here with people that we love, so that people we love can come eat here," said Strader.

The cafe takes a different approach to helping make your wait more enjoyable.

There's sidewalk chalk and a bags set outside for your use. And you can get your caffeine fix with some self-serve coffee.

"We definitely get questions everyday of, when are you getting a bigger building, when are you going to stay open for dinner, when are you going to, you know, cater my friend’s birthday party,” said Strader. It's slowly, its one step at a time. You know we are a new business, there's a lot of work that goes into it. “And we're very small; we have a very small staff. So it's like we just want to make sure that we, each step we take, we're executing it to the best of our ability. Don't want to take on too much and not be able to perform at our own standards, so... Stay tuned..."

Strader said the next challenge is finding a way to minimize the wait time for customers.


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