MORTON, Ill.–A former blacksmith shop in Morton is getting new life in a unique way.
“The building probably sat empty since ‘83 I believe. And so the community you know, really was hoping that something would be done with the space,” said John Thomas.
John and his wife, Amber Thomas own The Forge Steakhouse. Inside the restaurant, you’ll find history dating back to the 1900’s. From the original forges used by blacksmiths to some of the interior doors, the Thomases opted to keep some of the classic elements of the building.
John said, “People are really thankful that we did something to restore part of the community’s history instead of just knock it down.”
The Morton natives also own CyberFire Virtual Shooting Lounge located inside The Forge Steakhouse. The area gives customers access to a variety of virtual shooting simulators. The dual operation is one of a kind in Central Illinois.
“My friends and I are shooters,” said John. “And we wanted something unique.”
“Initially when we were looking for what kind of business we would get into, it was right at the time that everything from ax throwing to escape rooms got very popular,” he said.
The Thomases decided to take on the business operation after life threw a major curveball at them.
“We both had very good jobs at Caterpillar. Amber suffered a stroke about—almost three years ago and so we were looking for something to do that she could be part of that wouldn’t have me traveling as much,” said John.
And while this isn’t John’s first time owning a business, the two say it’s been their most challenging endeavor.
“It was a lot of research and a lot of thinking because we didn’t want to walk away—I didn’t want to walk away from a very good job a Caterpillar to go into something that is traditionally looked at as very risky,” he said.
Amber described it as exciting and scary.
When asked if they ever saw themselves becoming entrepreneurs, Amber quickly said, “No,” and the two laughed. “Maybe a little bit,” John said. “But this was not in the grand plan.”
But the Thomases say this new grand plan has come with community support.
The Forge Steakhouse and CyberFire Virtual Shooting Lounge officially opened New Year’s Day. The Thomases are considering franchising CyberFire Virtual Shooting Lounge to other restaurants and bars across the country.
The business is located at 25 East Adams St. in Morton.