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Business

Wheaton friends keep Shane's Deli open

5 residents purchase longtime deli in downtown Wheaton

Mike Kessler (left) and Eric Schlickman (right) are two of the new owners of Shane's Deli in downtown Wheaton, which Shane Rodgers (center) opened in 2002.
Mike Kessler (left) and Eric Schlickman (right) are two of the new owners of Shane's Deli in downtown Wheaton, which Shane Rodgers (center) opened in 2002.

WHEATON – With the prospect of Shane's Deli being torn down to make way for a new development, owner Shane Rodgers was getting ready to close the doors on the business.

"The property was sold last year, and it's slated to be developed," said Rodgers, who opened Shane's Deli in 2002. "We don't know the timing on that. And with all the work they're doing downtown, there's a certain level of uncertainty and a certain level of insecurity. I'm 44, and I've got three young kids. And this [other] opportunity came up. It just seemed like a good time to kind of make a transition."

The Glen Ellyn resident will be moving to the Moline area to work for a financial firm. Prior to the building being home to Shane's Deli, the distinctive-looking, all-glass building at 201 W. Wesley St. had been a Cock Robin restaurant for many years.

But at the last minute, five Wheaton friends – Kevin Dickson, Matt Green, Mike Kessler, Erik Miller and Eric Schlickman – have purchased the restaurant, resulting in Shane's Deli staying open for the foreseeable future.

"The plan up until not even two weeks ago was to have my last day be May 23," Rodgers said. "I had some people interested in buying it over the spring, but it just never worked out. And these guys caught wind of it, and it all worked out."

The first full day of operation under the new ownership will be May 26. As part of the transition, Shane's Deli will close at 3 p.m. May 25.

The new owners of Shane's Deli all live near the restaurant and love its food, along with the ambience it provides. Three of the owners are Wheaton North High School graduates.

Schlickman said he is fully aware the land the restaurant sits on could still be developed.

"All we know is that we wanted to take over and kind of continue this, for as long as we can, knowing that the end could be in six months or three years," he said. "We want to do what we can with it in that time and just keep it here as long as possible."

None of the five owners have restaurant experience. Schlickman works for Thomas Interiors, an office furniture dealership.

"We all have varying business experience," Schlickman said. "If we were to start a restaurant ourselves, it would be a lot more complicated, but Shane's got a good thing going on here."

The majority of the restaurant's staff will be staying on, he said, and Rodgers will be helping with the transition. His last day will be June 1.

Schlickman has been coming to the restaurant to eat since it was Cock Robin.

"It becomes kind of a tradition for families to come in here after church," said Schlickman, who attends College Church in Wheaton with his family. "It's pretty regular for us. You see a lot of people that you know."

He took note of the uniqueness of the building's appearance.

"There's not many buildings where you feel this connected to the outdoor environment and the people walking down the street," Schlickman said. "I think it is a very unique building. We question if the business would be as successful in another location that isn't this nostalgic. That's one of the things that we want to understand from our clientele – what is it about Shane's that draws them to it? I think the product is fantastic – the sandwiches, the meats, the cheeses and the breads. It's all top of the line. The cookies are made fresh daily, and the Rice Krispies treats are made fresh daily."

Kessler, who also is the franchise owner of Orangetheory Fitness in Wheaton as well as Orangetheory Fitness studios in Elmhurst and Rockford, said they want to keep that ambience.

"It hopefully will still feel like a community home," he said.

Customers have been saying their goodbyes to Rodgers and thanking him. He feels good about being able to make so many people happy.

"We've worked hard," Rodgers said. "It's nice to hear that, after all these years."

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