A familiar restaurant in Brookfield is back in familiar hands.
Father/son combination Nick and Dean Gellis have resumed ownership of the Brookfield Restaurant less than two years after selling the restaurant. When the Gellises sold the restaurant with the cow on the roof to Socrates and George Pappas, the Gellises retained ownership of the building at Ogden and Prairie avenues.
The Pappases changed the name of the restaurant to Papa Vini's and cut hours, opening for dinner only three or four days a week.
But last month the Pappases gave up on the restaurant and walked out.
"They just gave up," Dean Gellis, 51, said. "They just gave it back. They didn't want to lease it any more."
So the Gellises, who own another restaurant in Stevensville, Mich., are back. They are wasting no time in putting their friendly stamp on the restaurant, which during the seven years that they ran it was known for good, simple comfort food and a friendly atmosphere.
They immediately changed the name of the restaurant back to the Brookfield Restaurant and put up a neon sign. They closed for a few days and painted the place inside and out. They plan to reupholster the booths. They are adding cocktails and hard liquor to beer and wine and will be using a tiny bar tucked away in the restaurant.
The restaurant is already brighter inside and regulars say they are glad the Gellises are back.
"I didn't come in here too much with the new guy," said Robert Col of Berwyn, who said he used to come to the restaurant three or four times a week and was back on Friday evening talking with Dean Gellis.
The Gellises plan to revamp the menu and serve a combination of old favorites like roast pork and dumplings along with new salads, ribs, sandwiches and burgers. They hope that the brighter, refurbished interior and the new menu will attract old fans and newcomers alike. Entrees will typically cost less than $10.
"The menu is going to be a mix of old and new items," Dean Gellis said. "We're going to give it a fresh new look so we can entice everybody to come here - young, old and middle aged. I think that's what family restaurants are running into. They're not bringing in a younger clientele. We're going to try and bring in the younger clientele."
The Gellises have some work to do, as many regulars quit going there after they left.
When the Gellises left the restaurant had 40 employees. When they came back last month it only had 15, including just three from their previous ownership. But two waitresses who once worked there under the Gellises have been hired back and, as business improves, they hope to bring back more old employees.
The restaurant has always been a popular breakfast location, particularly for parishioners from St. Barbara's Church which just down the street on Prairie Avenue.
"Everyone marched from the church to the restaurant," said Dianne Duner, a 41-year resident of the village. "It was a Saturday and Sunday tradition to have that meal out at the Brookfield Restaurant after church. It was always just a very welcoming, homey place. Breakfast was great. It just had a more welcome feel to it."
Dean Gellis knows that in this tough economy making a profit will be a challenge.
"You've got to stay positive," Gellis said. "I think it'll be alright. Hopefully we'll do well. We want to make the corner vibrant."
One more thing needs to be done. The cow, which has been on the roof since 1929, needs to be freshened up.
"I've got to paint that cow," Gellis said.
Managing Editor Helen Karakoudas contributed to this report.