BELLEVILLE — The owner of a west Belleville restaurant will move his business into the former Hy-Ho Cafe.
Gary Raymond said he will close his Raymond's Place Express at 8201 W. Main St. after business on Saturday and wants to reoccupy the former Hy-Ho Cafe at 20 South Belt West by Easter Sunday, March 31.
He said he will bring Raymond's Place's menu, but not its name to his new locale. The new business will be known as The Patriot and be decorated in patriotic red, white and blue and include a military motif.
The menu will still include burgers, fish fries, deli sandwiches, salads and a dinner menu of sirloin hamburgers, steak burgers, liver and onions, grilled chicken breast, fried chicken and smoked pork chops. Baked goods from Wood Bakery in O'Fallon also will be on the menu.
R.L. Smith has joined the business as the executive chef after 14 years at Bellecourt Place at 120 N. Jackson St. in Belleville. On Thursday afternoon, Smith was painting the kitchen walls at what will become The Patriot and said there are plans to add steaks, fried chicken and meat loaf to the menu.
Raymond's wife Kathy was at the new restaurant scrubbing the stools at the dining counter. She said Hy-Ho patrons should be impressed with the renovated restaurant once it opens.
"With Ray's food, we're going to do good," Kathy Raymond said.
She also said The Patriot will initially be open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Gary Raymond said he could not do that at his west end locale.
"We are only open five days a week because business was slow," Raymond said. "I couldn't afford to hire anymore staff to be open two additional days with business being so slow."
Raymond, a native of Mackinaw, Mich., initially arrived in Belleville in 2001 and eventually established his restaurant and bar inside another location at 9735 W. Main St., where a tavern known as English's had been a staple in the city's west end. Raymond opened Raymond's Place Express at his current locale in July 2008 and closed Raymond's Place a month later. At that time, he changed the name of Raymond's Place Express to Raymond's Place.
His new restaurant at 20 South Belt West was home to Hy-Ho for the past 48 years. The building was initially built as Calavito's Italian-American Restaurant in 1953 before nearby Illinois 15 was constructed. The eatery became a stop for truckers who came rolling through town. A few years later, it became Compton's Cafe.
In 1965, Belleville Police officers Mike Mercurio and Fred Bohannon bought the business and renamed it the Hy-Ho. Debbie Scobbie bought out Mercurio's partner about 31 years ago and had been the sole owner for the past 12 years. Scobbie, who had leased the property, closed the business in January.
Raymond said work has been under way to renovate the former cafe. He said he likes the new location's proximity to downtown and has heard from a number of people interested in his new business.
"We've had no less than 50 cars pull up," he said. "People said they didn't know the Hy-Ho had closed. That's the customer base I need."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.