Three years after Betty Chu, and her husband, Kevin, stopped renting and purchased Main Street Café from their landlord, the couple says the building has been a work in progress that didn't always show off their vision for the restaurant.
The kitchen is repaired, the building's exterior was updated and the restaurant has nearly doubled its sanitation score compared to 2017. The St. Clair County Health Department shut the cafe down after it scored a 46 during an inspection a year ago.
During a recent inspection on Feb. 27, the restaurant scored a 92 after a health inspector gave them time to fix a couple of concerns on site. That score is the highest mark the establishment has received in recent years.
In January, the restaurant initially scored a 68, according to the St. Clair County Health Department. That score was raised to a 77 after corrections were made on site. In January, the Belleville News-Democrat filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the St. Clair County Health Department, asking for recent sanitation scores and reports.
That's when Betty Chu explained that she purchased the building three years ago with plans to fix-up the restaurant.
"We've fixed a lot," Betty Chu said. "It's a lot better than before."
The Chu family also owns China Quick on Carlyle Avenue in Belleville where the health inspection scores are high. That restaurant scored a 93 out of 100 after a recent inspection. Their battle to keep Main Street Café in line with the health department’s standards had a lot to do with the old landlord.
But now that they own the building, Betty Chu believes the restaurant will continue to improve. Longtime employee Nichole Elder has worked at the café for six years and has seen things change.
“Everyone who works here has been here a long time," Elder said. “ It’s just like a big family.”
The restaurant, which feels more like a second home to Elder and her fellow employees, has been repaired and updated inside and out. More cosmetic work could be done inside, but for now Elder and the Chus are focused on bringing customers back into the restaurant.
“We’re like a family,” Betty Chu said during a recent interview. “I’ve lived in Belleville for 14 years.”