When Dick O’Gorman moved to Wheaton in 1959, his parents attended wakes at the funeral home at 120 Hale Street.
More than 50 years later, as O’Gorman celebrates the anniversary of the opening of , the restaurant he opened at 120 Hale Street three years ago, he wishes his parents were alive to see what’s going on.
“I think they’d be amazed to know I was here running a business in the old funeral home,” O’Gorman said.
After 30 years of owning Shell gas stations, O’Gorman and his wife, Carole, opened Fox Fire in Geneva, which they sold before opening Ivy with chef Brian Goewey March 2, 2009.
The former funeral home became a stationery shop in 1969 and was then converted to a restaurant space in the late 80s, O’Gorman said. It had been sitting vacant for two years before the O’Gormans and Goewey opened Ivy.
“When we opened, it was at the peak of the worst economy since the 1930s, so it was pretty risky,” said O’Gorman.
But the risk didn’t scare him. In fact, he says opening in the bad economy was, “just at the right time.”
With only 10 percent of the population unemployed, he said, “90 percent are still working … (so I figured) we’ll try to get that 90 percent.”
The casually elegant destination serves about 8,000 people a month, including the loyal following of regulars that return sometimes twice a day and three times a week, O’Gorman said.
He would know—he’s there all the time.
And his presence is intentional. “I think the fact I’m here all the time, my wife is here, the chef is here… it makes it so people feel very welcome. You get to know their faces,” he said.
“We’ve got the world’s best customers—that’s why it works and that’s the fact. I go in and look around and think how lucky we are. Most restaurants go out of business in the first year so making it three years is really nice.”