Tuesday, October 3, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey was 16 years old when he started working at McDonald’s — the first job he ever held.
“I worked at the one on 1st Ave. and Lake St. [in Maywood],” Harvey recalled, as Ray Nelson — who along with his wife, Jan, now owns that Maywood McDonald’s — looked on (the Nelsons met as teenagers while working at two different McDonald’s locations).
“It gave me an opportunity to have a job, my own money and a checking account at 16. Back then, we wore brown shirts with golden arches on them and paper hats,” said the mayor, during a grand opening reception and ribbon-cutting for the Bellwood McDonald’s at 520 25th St.
The McDonald’s in Bellwood, which recently underwent major remodeling. | Shanel Romain/VFP
The restaurant had been closed for three months while undergoing major renovations that cost an estimated $1 million. It’s at least the fourth time the restaurant has undergone remodeling since opening in 1996.
Harvey and Nelson said that the newly remodeled McDonald’s could be the catalyst in the revitalization of the village’s 25th Avenue commercial corridor.
“This is really one of the proudest days for Jan and myself,” said Nelson. “We feel so proud to be in this community and to help initiate the rebirth of the 25th Avenue corridor. We’re very optimistic about the growth in Bellwood.”
Harvey added that he hopes the newly reopened McDonald’s is the kind of place for young people currently living in Bellwood that the Maywood McDonald’s was for him 40 years ago.
Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey at the Oct. 2 grand re-opening reception of the Bellwood McDonald’s. | Shanel Romain/VFP
“I’m proud that there’s a place where kids in our community can come and start their work process, have steady jobs, be disciplined, get up, go to work and serve,” he said.
“The Nelsons have been outstanding and longtime members of the chamber,” said Chris Parker, president of the Bellwood Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “This year marks 60 years that the Bellwood chamber has been in existence. Our rich history would not be complete without the support of business owners like the Nelsons.”
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th) lauded the store remodeling as a sign of progress.
“As technology continues to change, our communities are evolving,” she said. “It’s wonderful when the business community can evolve and change with the community.”
An employee of the Bellwood McDonald’s during a sales transaction. The restaurant opened last Friday. | Shanel Romain/VFP
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) used the reception as an opportunity to rally against the county’s sweetened beverage tax, which adds a penny per ounce to the cost of some sugary drinks.
“All we’ve gotta do now is repeal that unfair sweet and beverage tax,” said Boykin, who recently ruled out a run against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who supported the tax. Boykin, who won his first-term to the board in 2014, will run for reelection to his board seat instead.
“That tax is destroying business in cook county. High sales taxes are destroying businesses in cook county,” Boykin said. “We have to make Cook County competitive again. We’ve got to attract businesses to Bellwood. We’ve got to attract businesses to Cook County.
The newly remodeled Bellwood McDonald’s features an expanded kitchen. | Shanel Romain/VFP
Jim Carras, vice president and general manager, McDonald’s Greater Chicago Region, said that franchise owners like the Nelsons have been critical to McDonald’s success.
“They’re the secret sauce of McDonald’s,” he said. “Families running restaurants for the community in the community. We had to buy a different property behind us to make this [expansion] work. We already had done the drive-thru, but the Nelsons wanted to fix the kitchen because of their employees.”
According to Brandy McDaniel, with Wisconsin-based Peter Schwabe Construction, the general contractor for the remodeling, the Bellwood store now includes a double drive thru featuring state-of-the-art menu boards, new seating and tables in the dining area, a larger kitchen and two new digital kiosks where customers can pay by credit card while inside.
The new double drive-thru installed outside the newly remodeled Bellwood McDonald’s. | Shanel Romain/VFP
“This is the company’s major remodel program,” said Jeff Neumann, a vice president with Peter Schwabe, who explained that the exterior of the store now sports a modernized look consistent with newer model McDonald restaurants.
The characteristic bent mansards are gone, replaced by a flat roof punctuated by aluminum trellises.
Jay Nelson, the Nelsons’ son and director of operations for the family company, said that closing the Bellwood location for three months cost around $100,000, which was partly offset by the company pooling money before the store’s closing and by customers going to the family’s other locations.
New digital kiosks inside of the new Bellwood McDonald’s, which recently reopened after being closed for several months. | Shanel Romain/VFP
The Nelsons also own and operate restaurants in Roselle, Hanover Park, Itasca, Maywood, Berkeley, Forest Park and Oak Park. In July, the Hanover Park McDonald’s underwent major renovations and the Nelsons recently acquired a McDonald’s in Elmhurst.
Early sales indicate that the investment in their Bellwood location, which Jay Nelson said is the family’s second-busiest McDonald’s behind the one in Oak Park, could pay off rather quickly.
“On Sunday, we had about an 11 percent increase over the same day last year, which is pretty good,” Nelson said. “We opened on Friday, but didn’t tell anyone. We just unlocked the doors. Saturday was much busier and yesterday was very positive.”
The dining area of the newly remodeled Bellwood McDonald’s. | Shanel Romain/VFP
Nelson didn’t disclose specific sales information, but said that he hopes that revenue increases by 15 or 20 percent going forward. He said that he hasn’t experienced a decrease in sales because of the sweetened beverage tax. He has, however, heard more customer complaints.
“Some don’t necessarily understand that it’s the government who puts the tax on the drinks and chooses which drinks to tax,” he said. “We take the heat on that.”
Nelson said that the family’s store at 1st Ave. and Lake in Maywood is scheduled to undergo interior and exterior renovations sometime next year. Their location on Roosevelt Rd. in Maywood, which opened less than four years ago, will get new kiosks, he said. VFP
The Nelsons have scheduled a series of free activities at the Bellwood McDonald’s throughout October. Below is a schedule outlining those events (click to enlarge):