AB on Main: Brotherly love keeps Illinois family restaurant afloat amid pandemic

AB on Main

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Adrienne Bankert, Emmy award-winning veteran journalist and “Morning in America” host, is invested in telling stories of real people from all walks of life — and all parts of the nation.

Morning in America will highlight the main streets in America in the series AB on Main, an intersection of conversation for how America can move forward. Adrienne set out to visit main streets across the country to listen to everyday people’s voices, concerns and perspectives.

Her next stop is Joliet, Illinois — known for its historic bridges, all of them from back in the 1930s. With the Des Plaines River flowing through its downtown and a stop on the famous Route 66, Joliet is a small town with a big personality.

At the crossroads of America, Jen Howard, the president of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce, said the power of social media helped pull their community together to keep businesses alive during the pandemic.

“Oh, it was huge. There was a Facebook page started by a local resident, and everyone was sharing local spots to go and support,” Howard said.

One of those local businesses is Louis’ Family Restaurant, a Joliet mainstay.

Owner Elias Polimenakos immigrated from Greece and opened the family restaurant in 1992, allowing him to raise his family and live the American dream. But without a drive-thru or carryout service, business suffered during the pandemic until two of his sons, Nick and Michael, stepped in.

“They did everything for us our entire lives, and, when they asked for help, there’s no hesitation to come here. I mean, they needed help; we were going to help. There was no question about it,” Nick said.

One son left his pre-med studies, and the other postponed his plans to be an engineer; both came back to Joliet and got to work.

“We took an indoor restaurant and transformed it into a drive-thru,” Michael said.

Then, they made some significant digital upgrades.

“It’s a restaurant that was in the ancient past. We brought it into modern times; we gave it a website, Doordash, Facebook, Grubhub. I mean, we’ve got it on social media now,” Nick said.

They even made a commercial and brought in a mascot, their dog Zeus.

Louis’ Family Restaurant not only survived, but sales thrived.

“It’s been the hardest time for a restaurant ever the last year and a half, and we flourished,” Nick said.

“Without them, I could never do it, and they’re doing an excellent job,” Elias said.

Best of all, the brothers decided to stay in Joliet and continue the family business together.

“I think we found something with more meaning. We found something together. And it was our family’s. It’s our heritage that came down to us,” Nick said. “Now we’re doing it together every single day, and it just means so much more.”

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