BUCKLEY — Whether they are attending a Sunday service at St. John’s Lutheran Church or at a Buckley Village Board meeting, Peggy Shockley and Sue Stachura are constantly being asked when their diner/bakery will finally open.
And finally, those inquiring minds have their answer.
After more than a year of renovations to the building at 310 S. Railroad Ave., Peggy Sue’s opened Monday at that location, giving Buckley residents a place to gather and socialize while enjoying some coffee and tea and freshly baked food.
The highly anticipated opening of the diner/bakery was preceded by an open house Friday night, when the community was invited there to sample its many offerings, including 16 desserts.
So far, the reception from the community of 600 people has been "fabulous," Shockley said.
"We did this just for Buckley (residents) to have some place to come, smoke-free, for a cup of coffee or a cup of tea or to get something to eat," Shockley said. "We’re not doing this for ourselves. This is for Buckley — strictly for Buckley."
Located in a building that decades earlier had occupied a restaurant and motel, Peggy Sue’s was only able to open after extensive renovations were done to the building over the course of more than a year.
A history lesson
The retired Shockley and her husband, former village board president Evan Scott Shockley, purchased the building about seven years ago with the intention of earning an income off of a section of the building that had earlier been turned into apartments. The rear of the building was converted into six apartments at some point after the building was last used as the Chris’tle Motel & Restaurant.
According to Peggy Shockley, the motel and restaurant closed in the early 1970s after being open since 1960. The construction of Interstate 57 in the 1960s hurt their business, so owners Christie and Merle Genzel decided to close the motel as well as the restaurant, which was located in the front part of the building. The Genzels ended up turning the 12 motel rooms into six apartments and the restaurant portion of the building into their own living quarters.
After buying the building, Evan and Peggy Shockley began renovating the apartments as tenants moved out or died. However, they had no plans at that time for the restaurant side of the building, which had sat vacant for many years.
That all changed, though, after the 64-year-old Peggy Shockley met the 71-year-old Stachura, a former Mokena resident who moved to Buckley three years ago. The two eventually became friends as they started sitting next to each other at the village board’s monthly meetings. At some point, Stachura mentioned that she was trying to find a suitable location in town for a bakery.
Stachura had just recently graduated from an internationally renowned cake decorating school, and she wanted to put her new-found skills to good use. She knew it would not be legal to bake and sell items from her own home, so she was looking for suitable sites in town instead.
"She had originally thought of asking the church or one of the (bars) if she could borrow their kitchen, but she decided not to do that," Shockley said. "So I said, ‘If you find the building, I’ll help you.’"
The building that Stachura would find was the Shockleys’, of course.
Peggy Shockley and her husband, a former sheet-metal worker, did most of the renovations themselves. They did get some help from a licensed plumber and Buckley resident Jim Liston, who rewired all of the electricity, along with "a number of people in town who came in and helped do something for a few hours here and there," Stachura said.
In addition, helping lay some 1,500 pieces of new ceramic floor tile in the diner and kitchen area were some of the Shockleys’ friends from Kankakee County, where the Shockleys used to live before moving to Buckley in 2005.
The work not only involved installing new electrical hardware and laying floor tile, it involved installing a new furnace system, installing new lighting, creating two new public bathrooms, repainting the concrete walls and installing new kitchen equipment. A new sign was also installed outside along Railroad Avenue. They also had to remove a 3-foot-high concrete wall to create access to the new bathrooms.
"Everything is new," Shockley noted. "We gutted this place."
In all, the Shockleys spent nearly $80,000 on the renovations.
Peggy Shockley, who last worked in a bakery in Kankakee 44 years ago, said members of the Genzel family "love" how the building has been put back to use.
The community, too, has been extremely supportive, with people stopping by regularly over the past year to see the progress of the renovations.
"There’s not been a day in the last year that we’ve been working on it that somebody from Buckley or not even from Buckley has come in and looked to see what we’re doing and just say, ‘Man, this is great; thank you for doing this,’" Shockley said. "They are just thrilled.
"And the church ladies, the elderly ladies in Buckley who meet every single morning for coffee and donuts, they are very excited about this, too."
‘Testing the water’
Initially, Peggy Sue’s will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, but those operational hours could be expanded depending on how business goes.
Also, Peggy Sue’s will start out as just a bakery. However, in a few weeks, the business is expected to start offering lunch, including soups, salads and sandwiches.
And eventually, Peggy Sue’s will start offering both breakfast and lunch, in addition to baked items, Shockley said.
"Right now we’re testing our toes in the water," Shockley noted.
Peggy Sue’s will offer different bakes goods each day. Typically available for walk-in customers will be cake or pie by the slice, as well as cupcakes, muffins and cookies. Whole cakes or pies — along with other baked items — can be ordered, as well, if done so in advance. Special orders can be placed by calling 217-394-2686.
Coffee and tea will be available every weekday, too.
Memorabilia on display
There is enough seating for up to 40 or 50 people in Peggy Sue’s. Visitors may notice that on the diner’s north and south walls, memorabilia of Buckley’s history is on display. The artifacts were provided by resident Betty Hull.
In that same area are menus from the old restaurant that operated there. Alice Genzel provided them.
Shockley and Stachura are proud to have started their business, and they are grateful for the support.
"We don’t need to advertise," Shockley said, "because we’ve got a lot of ladies — and even some of the men who are on the (village) board with me — coming in (to check on when it is opening). And since we’ve been closer to (opening), Sue has been baking and giving (samples) away. We tell people, ‘Try it. This is free. Next month you’re going to pay for it.’"