Kim Schewe has a pretty simple philosophy to growing a business: First crawl, then walk, then run.
She has had practice with TR’s Place on Concordia Church Road in Belleville. It has been up and running for decades since before the Belleville native took it over from her father in 1997. Now, her new venture, South Gate Saloon, near Scott Air Force Base, is well past walking as well.
South Gate Saloon opened about a year ago as a bar. The kitchen started up in May.
Kim, 49, and her kitchen manager, Stefanie Helton, have since updated the menu to offer nine pizzas, as well as more typical “pub grub” and “belly busters” of burgers and a sandwich called the Fat Frog. It’s a sandwich of chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, french fries, American cheese and the bar’s 161 sauce on a hoagie roll. The Spicy Frog substitutes buffalo chicken tenders.
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“I don’t want to have just bar food,” Kim said, which explains the Garden Sampler of fried pickles, cauliflower, o’ rings and green beans; or the candied bacon on the dessert menu.
“If I’m eating a platter, sometimes you want something sweet,” she said, explaining the candied bacon, apple overload fritters and biscuit bites on the menu.
There’s plenty of bar-comfort food on the menu as well, such as loaded nachos for $8 and a pound of wings for $7. SGS also serves a cup of chili for $2.50. Its taste may be familiar to those who voted it the People’s Choice at the Mascoutah Fall Festival and Chili Cook-Off this year.
“I don’t eat at home a lot anymore,” Kim said.
Not that she is often at home anyway. On a recent Tuesday, her day started at 6 a.m. with finishing up paperwork at TR’s Place before running to Sam’s Club and then to South Gate Saloon before it opened at 11 a.m.
“I still have running to do,” she said.
Kim is used to keeping busy. She was a newly divorced mother “with a 1-year-old on my hip” when her dad asked for her help as a bartender at TR’s. She hadn’t tended bar before, but she did to help out her dad. About a year later, he sold TR’s to her. She hasn’t made many changes.
“It’s exciting” work, she said of running the bar and restaurant. “The people you meet, the stories you hear...”
“They’re both older bars, and there are stories of when such-and-such was here. It makes you feel like you’re keeping something alive,” she said. “Whatever I do out there works.”
TR’s Place has party rooms, but no kitchen.
When she first saw the building that would be South Gate Saloon, she knew it would someday include a full-service kitchen.
She had walls removed inside the building, which she learned may have once held a pair of businesses. She added windows and the bar, had carpet ripped out and the concrete floor stained.
“We kinda gutted it,” she said.
The decor now is dark but not moody, with the bartop a dark wood rimmed with metal. Murals painted by Kate Summer adorn a door behind the bar and a door to the patio. Summer also painted the wall mural at TR’s Place, Kim said.
Kim was determined to start slowly with food service.
“You have to crawl before you walk, then walk before you run,” she said. Taking care of the bar is something she can do “in her sleep,” but a full-service kitchen was quite new.
She started with limited hours, but has expanded food service hours to 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The bar closes at 2 a.m.
Kim is a “big believer” in consistency. South Gate Saloon is open seven days a week, as is TR’s. It keeps Kim busy, but she’s found big payoffs to owning her own businesses.
“Because I did run our business, I could take off (for her children’s activities). ... On the other hand, it doesn’t stop.”
Neither her son nor her daughter are following the family business plan, although the recipe for the fresh cilantro sauce is tweaked from one her daughter made.
“She has no desire to do what I do,” Kim said.
South Gate Saloon
Where: 4350 Illinois 161, Belleville
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week; kitchen open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
The menu: Serves salads, sandwiches, nachos, pizza and dessert for lunch and dinner.