Jimmy John’s aims for Thanksgiving reopening

Jimmy John’s could be reopened for Thanksgiving. At least
that’s the word that came during a benefit for the popular hot dog stand on
Route 202 in Chadds Ford Township.

An early morning fire gutted the restaurant on May 1, the
day Jimmy John’s was to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

Radley Run Country Club in Birmingham Township hosted the
benefit Sunday. Jimmy John’s owner Roger Steward was grilling dogs and serving
fries. There was a suggested donation of $15 for all you can eat, while a $30
donation came with a Jimmy John’s T-shirt and six raffle tickets. Anywhere from
800 to 1,000 people were expected to attend.

Steward was pleased with the turnout.

“Today is incredible,” Steward said. “The outpouring from
the community is just overwhelming… It’s good to see smiles, smelling our food
cooking and watching people eat.”

The goal is to reopen by Thanksgiving, though Steward hopes
it can be sooner.

“Realistically it will be sometime in November, late
November,” he said.

Long-time customers will likely feel right at home once the
restaurant reopens. Even though many of the model trains and photos were
destroyed in the fire, insurance and gifts will replace some.

Steward also had several boxes of negatives and many of the
photos were already duplicates. The negatives have been digitized, he said, so
the photos will be back up.

“They’ll be preserved forever, and now we can play around
and see which ones to enlarge. We can create the same sort of collages, the
nostalgia we had on the window. I even came across some photos I had never seen
before,” Steward said.

There will be some differences, though. One difference will
be the locations of the restrooms. Customers will not have to go to a different
building to wash up anymore. Current building codes requires the restrooms to
be in the restaurant building.

“To bring an older building up to code, we have to make some
changes,” he said. “…In the long run, that will be a big plus.”

Another difference will be an addition to the menu. Jimmy
John’s will be serving ice cream when it reopens and customers will be able to
pay with a credit card.Steward said the fun day was designed to raise money
because the upgrades to the restaurant will go beyond the insurance cap.

Jeffrey Brown, president of General InsurCorp, the
restaurant’s insurance carrier said costs for the repair and renovation is in
the neighborhood of $800,000.

With the exception of the bathrooms, Brown said the visual
should be the same as it was before.

Radley Run’s General Manager Joe Mendez said the country
club has been abuzz over Jimmy John’s since the day of the fire.

“After the fire we had a lot of members, the whole weekend,
very emotional. There was a lot of attachment to Jimmy John’s, a lot of family
history. Several of us, and the board, got together and said there’s something
that we can do to for a fellow business that suffered such a tragic loss,”
Mendez said.

Many people attending the benefit had a strong attachment to
Jimmy John’s.

“We’re Jimmy John’s fans from a long way back,” said Glen
Sinclair of Uwchlan Township. “I grew up in Bucks County but my wife and I met
here in college at West Chester and as long as I can remember living down here,
we’ve always eaten at Jimmy Johns.”

He said May 1 was his wife’s birthday and that she wanted to
go to the restaurant to celebrate. They were on the way to Jimmy John’s when
they saw the flames. Sinclair added that a Thanksgiving reopening would be
“great.”

Another attendee, Margie Schwartz, of Birmingham Township,
has been a Jimmy John’s customer for 25 years and came to the benefit because,
she said, ”I love Jimmy John’s.”

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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