Future convenience store property has long history
The 1933 brick building that housed Becherer’s Tavern and Dandy Inn Irish Pub in Fairview Heights is set for demolition next year, along with a small home behind it.
They will be replaced with a Moto convenience store, gas station, car wash and restaurant with sit-down and drive-thru service, according to Rob Forsyth, president of Moto Inc. and vice president of subsidiary FKG Oil Co., a Belleville-based company that operates 78 stores in six states.
“It will be a facility much like the one on Fullerton Road at Illinois 161, which is the first of our next-generation stores,” he said.
That location in Belleville is expected to open by the end of this year. Its menu includes specialty coffees, custom salads and other “made-to-order” food, including meats smoked on site. The menu at the Fairview Heights location on Lincoln Highway (U.S. 50) will be similar, but it’s still being developed.
“The convenience-store concept is ever changing to meet the needs of the community,” said Forsyth, whose grandfather, father and uncle started the family business in the 1950s.
The store at Lincoln Highway and Old Collinsville Road will be 5,700 square feet with 16 gas pumps.
Daniels entered into a pending contract with Moto Inc. last year. The company submitted a site development plan, which was approved by the city of Fairview Heights in April.
“From the standpoint of business development, it’s nice to have an anchor like that at the entrance of the city,” said Paul Ellis, economic development director.
On July 24, Moto Inc. bought four parcels of land in Fairview Heights for $1.15 million, according to the St. Clair County recorder of deeds office. The former Dandy Inn building and parking lot sit on three parcels along Lincoln Highway. The fourth parcel includes a small home on Old Collinsville Road.
Plans call for both structures to be demolished and the new Moto complex to be constructed in 2019, Forsyth said. Daniels could not be reached for comment.
“They need to obtain building permits before they can begin construction,” said Andrea Riganti, director of land use and development in Fairview Heights. “They would also need to obtain a business license and, if they’re planning to sell liquor, they have to get a liquor license.”
Mixed reactions to development
Ellis acknowledges that the Dandy Inn was a local landmark and that many people hate to see historical buildings torn down. But, he said, the parties involved are doing what they think makes economic sense.
“Gas stations are important, too,” he said. “And MotoMart runs a good operation.”
Lisa Davinroy, who lives nearby on Old Collinsville Road, opposes the Moto development. She thinks the “massive plaza” will increase traffic, including large diesel trucks that existing roads weren’t built to handle.
Davinroy, 62, a retired concrete finisher, noted that there’s already a Hucks on the intersection’s northwest corner and other gas stations in the vicinity.
“This is a residential neighborhood, but there are so many properties being zoned for business,” she said. “Our property values are going to be garbage. Who would want to live here? The traffic is horrible.”
Forsyth said the new Moto will be completely different than Hucks in appearance, size and services, including a larger selection of grocery and other retail items. Restaurant customers will have a choice of eating inside or driving up in their cars and ordering at a kiosk.
“It’s a whole new concept,” Forsyth said. “It’s like comparing an old-fashioned drug store to a Walgreens.”
Hucks employees are staying positive, despite the fact that a Moto across the street will be direct competition.
“The way we look at it is, we’ll still keep our regulars,” said clerk Stefanie Garwood, 28. “We’re friendly to everybody. We all have good personalities and smiles on our faces, and we feel like if we keep that up, we’ll be fine. We’ve been here a long time. We’re a strong store.”
The St. Clair County Historical Society isn’t taking a position on Moto’s plans to demolish the 85-year-old structure built by the Becherer family, who descended from German immigrants.
“While we’d rather see the building stay there, what’s more important is the history of the site,” said curator Will Shannon. “It was the location of a tavern on the Vincennes road in the 19th century.”
Shannon would like to see some kind of marker erected to tell the historical story.
Hot spot for more than 150 years
In the mid-1800s, Henry Becherer opened a tavern and trading post on the corner of what is now the intersection of Lincoln Highway and Old Collinsville Road.
An 1863 map shows a line of several small structures at that location. They were replaced by a larger building, according to an 1874 map. The historical society has an undated photo of men and boys posing in front of a frame building with a sign that read “Ridge Prairie Saloon, Henry Becherer.”
In 1925, the Belleville Daily News-Democrat ran a advertisement for a “Grand Dance” at Adam Becherer’s Pavilion with music by Kimes Serenaders of Gillespie. Admission was 50 cents.
“Come and enjoy dancing at its best,” the advertisement read.
Adam Becherer was Henry’s son, according to Adam’s grandson, Bob Becherer, 76, of Stony Brook, New York.
In 1933, Adam constructed the two-story brick building on Lincoln Highway, putting the name “A. Becherer” on the front. It was a combination tavern, grocery store and filling station and also had living quarters for the family.
“There was a meeting hall upstairs, and that’s where the Ridge Prairie Grange met,” Bob Becherer said.
He lived in the building when his father, Adam Becherer Jr., operated the business with his brother, Orville. At that time, it was called “Becherer Bros. Tavern.” In the 1950s, Adam Jr. turned over his share to his sister and brother-in-law, Kathryn and Herb Roach, parents of the current O’Fallon mayor, Herb Jr.
In 1977, the family sold the business to Dave and Phyllis Daniels, Mark’s parents, who renamed it Dandy Inn Irish Pub & Restaurant. It had an Irish theme, but cooks whipped up everything from pork chops to burgers, chicken wings to shepherd’s pie.
“I miss the Dandy Inn,” said Lee Nguyen, manager of Today Nail Spa across the street. “I usually ordered the fish over there and sometimes the pizza. It was convenient.”
Bob Becherer occasionally visits relatives in the metro-east. On his last trip, he learned of Moto’s plans to tear down the building that bears his grandfather’s name.
“I feel sad about it,” he said. “It’s a well-known building. It’s been around forever. I know it’s known as the Dandy Inn today, but it was in the Becherer family for a much longer time.”
“I hate to see it go,” added Mayor Roach. “But I understand. The cost to get the electrical and everything else up to code would be astronomical.”