WHEATON – Before Smokehouse closed its doors for good Aug. 31, Don Kenyon knew he wanted to stop in for one last meal.
He wasn't the only one. The Wheaton restaurant was packed with customers wanting one final taste of Smokehouse's trademark gyros, hot dogs and ribs.
Smokehouse owner Connie Poulopoulos recently announced the restaurant's closing following the sale of its property to Wheaton Eye Clinic as part of its expansion plans. She has owned the restaurant since the death of her husband, Bill Poulopoulos, in 2000. Bill founded the restaurant 35 years ago with Ted Kastrantas.
"I was shocked to hear about it and disappointed that they're closing and not reopening someplace," Kenyon said.
The Winfield resident had been a regular customer at the restaurant for the past 18 years.
"I loved their gyros and Polish sausages and never had a bad meal there," said Kenyon, who waited in line for 35 minutes on the restaurant's last day.
But it was a wait he was willing to make.
"It was worth it," Kenyon said.
The fact that Smokehouse opened on a Labor Day weekend and closed on a Labor Day weekend was a complete coincidence, said manager Tom Poulopoulos, the son of Connie and Bill.
"We owned the property, and we recently sold it to the Wheaton Eye Clinic so they could expand their practice," he said. "It just worked out that the restaurant closed that day."
The restaurant had been a big part of his life. Tom, 40, had worked at the restaurant since he was 16.
"I pretty much was raised there since I was 5 years old," he said.
Even though his father died in 2000, Tom said he could still feel his dad's presence in the restaurant.
"I'd been pretty much working there three or four times a week, every week since he passed, and every time I would walk in, I always felt like a piece of him was in there," he said. "He laid down the tiles in the restaurant himself, and he built the counter. It's kind of weird that I'm not going to have that anymore. Every part of the restaurant was a part of him."
Most of the time, Tom would manage the restaurant at night. By day, he is a teacher at Waterbury Elementary School in Roselle.
Tom was overwhelmed by the response from people when they heard the restaurant was closing. He said Smokehouse was packed during its last days.
"Some people came from out of state just to have one last gyro," he said. "That's pretty cool."