PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill. (WMBD) — Battling a tumor and opening a winery at the same time is something most people can not say they have done.

A Central Illinois man opened a winery last August in Peoria Heights’ Heritage Square, even though he was going through difficult medical issues. And despite all the odds, Michael Vandy did it.

“There was a brain tumor that was the size of a racquetball that was removed on March 6, 2020, and that was about a six-month recovery,” Vandy said.

Shortly after his six-month recovery, Vandy ended up getting a staff infection, which added another six months to his recovery. After recovering, Vandy still wanted to open up the winery he planned on, for years.

With all his money going towards surgeries and opening a business during the beginning of COVID-19, he struggled.

“All of the grants and all of the COVID assistance, I didn’t receive anything from the local, state, or federal governments, even though I tried to diligently obtain some of that money … I’m having a hard time paying my bills, getting everything, and building the brand that I wanted to build,” said Vandy.

He still decided to open the Waters Edge Winery and Bistro in Aug. 2021, and said his accounting background allows him to afford everything he needs, but not everything he wants. But, he hopes he can provide more for guests in the future.

“That includes tasting, wine knowledge. I want the food to be excellent, and I want the atmosphere and the ambiance to be warm and inviting,” said Vandy.

Considering himself a success story, being able to make everything work, he still reminds people that small business owners need extra help during these times.

“We rely on foot traffic and guests to come in to support the local business,” Vandy said.