Wherever Gary and Su Clinton landed during his 27-year career with the U.S. Air Force, the couple opened a business, from tanning and nail salons to a bakery.
WIT Cafe is their ninth endeavor. The difference is “this is the last stop,” said Gary, who is now retired from the military. The couple, along with their son and daughter, settled in Shiloh to be near Su’s family.
“This building was Su’s father’s,” said Gary of the cafe’s location in a strip mall just a stone’s throw from the Shiloh Gate at Scott Air Force Base. The couple bought the shopping center in 2015 and plan to redevelop it and expand the cafe, which opened last December.
“We purchased it to grow our business,” said Su. “We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do, but saw a need to offer better food and coffee.”
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Su said when they opened WIT Cafe, which stands for Whatever It Takes, they began small to get a feel for what customers wanted. They offered locally-brewed coffee from Mississippi Mud, tea and baked goods from Wood Bakery in O’Fallon.
We wanted to stay local with everything we do.
Su Clinton on items served at WIT Cafe
“We wanted to stay local with everything we do,” she said, including using vegetables and herbs grown in a nearby garden by her father, Dong Kim.
Since then, they’ve added cold specialty drinks, hot and cold sandwiches, including some for breakfast, and most recently bowl entrees that are Asian-Korean fusion dishes.
“Most of our business has been with Scott,” said Su, 43, but she hopes that getting the word out about the business will draw non-military customers, too.
Just about any hot or cold coffee or tea drink is available, from a 12-ounce iced cappucino to a hot chai or green tea latte, each $3.50. Flavorings can be added, shots or powdered, from English toffee to mocha coconut.
Ten sandwiches are on the panini menu. A favorite is the Pesto Chicken Salad Panini on crusty Italian bread. It includes mixed greens, tomato, bell pepper and walnuts. A recent special was a turkey, jalapeño and pepper jack cheese panini.
The chicken is cooked in-house, and they buy smoked turkeys for other sandwiches.
“I think customers taste the difference, that the meat is not processed,” Su said.
Paninis range in price from $6.50 to $8.75 with a drink and a side, which can be chips, fresh fruit, potato salad or a side salad.
A big seller for breakfast is an egg-white sandwich with avocado, spinach and cheese either on a croissant or as a panini. Breakfast sandwiches are $2.50 to $7.50.
Wood Bakery goods are 80 cents to $1.25. Cookies, muffins and biscotti are 99 cents to $1.25.
A popular purchase is the trail mix made there. An 8-ounce container costs $2.95.
“I wanted to make sure I knew what was in it. I wanted it to be fresh,” she said. “I was looking for something more than a snack-like chips.”
The hot bowl entrees are daily specials and come with a drink, $6.50 to $10.50. The bowls give Su a chance to recreate dishes from her Korean heritage, such as bibimbap, which includes steamed rice, sauteed vegetables, mixed greens, bulgogi (grill marinated) beef and a fried egg. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and Korean barbecue ribs will be added to the menu.
Gary, 48, works full-time as a manager for Schaefer Auto Body, but helps out at the cafe. He’s the construction guy, too.
“This was an office,” he said of the now cozy space with tall ceilings, blackboard menus, sofa, comfy chairs and tables and brick walls. Gary gutted and renovated it.
The view out the big front window is of several retired Air Force planes that sit in a field across the road. A parking area there allows the curious to stop and see the planes up close.
Gary wants people to know the cafe is not on military property and is easily accessible to all off Illinois 158, just south of Interstate 64.
On the horizon are one big and one small addition to WIT Cafe: A drive-up window is in the works and should be ready in a couple months. Housemade bubble tea will be on the menu in the next few weeks.
- Offers: Coffee, tea, specialty drinks, baked goods, breakfast sandwiches, paninis/sandwiches, salads, Asian-Korean bowl entrees.
- Stands for: Whatever It Takes
- Where: 747 Seibert Road, outside Scott AFB’s Shiloh Gate
- When: 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
- Handicapped accessible: Yes
- Information: 618-641-9733 www.witcafe.com