ROCHELLE — Patron’s at Brewski’s Bar & Grill in downtown Rochelle at 406 Cherry Ave. are encouraged to bring in photos of themselves with their biggest fish catch to hang on the walls.
The fishing-themed bar and grill held a ribbon cutting Thursday and officially opened for business Friday in the former site of The Rack Bar & Grill. Two photos that are already on the wall in the business hold special meaning behind its name and theme for owners Joshua and Robin Blunt.
One of the photos features a good friend of Robin’s that passed away nine years ago whose nickname was Brewski. The other features her late father, who used to take her fishing.
"Fishing is something that's been a part of my life since I was a kid,” Robin said. “When we were thinking of a theme, that kind of blew away anything else that we could think of. We know fishing is a family activity. We definitely have a lot of our own pictures up right now, but we want the community to bring in their own pictures and everybody to come in here and be able to point out their picture on the wall.”
After being open Friday and Saturday, Brewski’s will be closed Sunday for Mother’s Day before entering its regular hours of Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Video gaming machines likely won’t be ready until next month because of a lag period due to a change in ownership.
Robin said Brewski’s will focus more on the grill side of being a bar and grill. It will have a chef with 15 years of culinary experience making bar food including burgers, wings and fried food. Weekly specials will also be featured that could include anything from steak to pasta dishes to tacos, Robin said. Guest chefs are also in the works.
Robin and Joshua have six children between the two of them. Remodeling work on the bar has been difficult to balance with their home lives, and it’s resulted in their children helping where they can while their parents have transformed their new location into Brewski’s.
“Our kids are good and come in here and play and help,” Robin said. “My 11-year-old helped scrape up the floor. Even our youngest children come in here and wipe off tables and help. We really just want the community to feel at-home when they come in here and have it be a safe place to bring their kids. We want to make sure it's a place where we'd be comfortable bringing our own kids to."
Remodeling was all done by Joshua and Robin, which was cost effective. Changes to the inside of the building include new flooring, painting and different tables and lighting.
“It was so dark before,” Robin said. “We made it a lot brighter and painted all of the tables. The bar will be changed eventually. The work has gone fast. We had to get everything done quickly.”
The Blunts are not bar owners by trade. Joshua is a chiropractor who has a clinic in the Quad Cities, but his work allows him to spend most of his time in Rochelle. Robin is a nurse.
“I just finished a nursing contract and I'm taking a little hiatus just to calm down after COVID-19,” Robin said. “Because it was hard dealing with all of that. We wanted a business here in Rochelle to put down roots and really be a part of the community. This opportunity came up and we just jumped on it."
During Thursday’s ribbon cutting, Rochelle Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tricia Herrera welcomed Brewski’s to the city and marveled at the change in career path.
“I was very fortunate to meet with Robin a couple of weeks ago,” Herrera said. “The first question I asked her was how you go from a travel nurse to owning a bar and grill. She said it had been her dream. We're glad your dream is here in Rochelle.”
Herrera said she was glad the space didn’t stay vacant for too long after The Rack closed. Mayor John Bearrows agreed and welcomed the Blunts on behalf of the City of Rochelle.
“It's a pleasure to have this building filled up again,” Bearrows said. “You guys did an amazing job and it looks great. On behalf of the city, welcome to not only downtown, but Rochelle. I think what you'll find in Rochelle is that there's a really strong connection between our small businesses and the city and all of our departments. We're all on the same page and the same team. We're here to help each other.”
Robin called the experience of starting up a business “eye-opening” and said her and Joshua have enjoyed how the community has embraced them.
"Thanks for welcoming us to the community,” Robin said. “Hopefully we'll be here for a very long time."