ROSELAND — Roseland’s only sit-down family restaurant is back and open for business after a two-year hiatus prompted by a devastating fire and looting.
Judy Ware, co-owner of Ware Ranch Steak House at 11147 S. Michigan Ave., spent the past two years trying to get her and her husband Victor Ware’s business back on its feet. After dealing with construction delays and issues with insurance that stalled the process, the restaurant is open again.
The restaurant has received a warm welcome from neighbors, Judy Ware said.
“People were very happy when they discovered that the restaurant was open again because this is the only place where they can come and sit down and have a nice meal,” she said. “It’s a nice atmosphere; it’s just really something that was needed for the community. “
Ware said people have also liked the changes made to the restaurant during the reconstruction, like new pictures and other decor to honor Black cowboys like the ones she grew up with.
The reopening follows a bad streak that threatened the business.
The restaurant was damaged during looting in summer 2020.
“They broke into our place, and we shut down for one day,” Ware said. “We came back the next day, cleaned up and then reopened the following day because we noticed in our neighborhood, everything was closed so there was no place for people to get food.”
Not long after the break-in, an arsonist targeted Ware’s restaurant and the building next to it, setting the buildings on fire and causing thousands of dollars in damage to Ware Ranch Steak House, Ware said.
The building was gutted with smoke, fire and water damage, and it needed to be heavily reconstructed, Ware said. The project was only partially paid for through insurance, with the rest having to come from Ware and her husband’s personal funds, a $5,000 Small Business Repair Program grant and money from a GoFundMe campaign.
The rebuilding process was a struggle, Ware said. A worker didn’t follow proper protocol or get the right permits for the reconstruction, and the Wares went back and forth with contractors who took longer than expected to work on the restaurant, delaying the reopening, Ware said.
“It was hard because we actually live in the neighborhood and … I work in my yard, so people who knew us would stop by and want to know when the restaurant was going to be opening back up,” Ware said. “We had different dates that [contractors] said they were going to be completed [by], and it never was.”
Ware said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) helped greatly in getting the restaurant the final inspection needed before it reopened Aug. 23.
Ware Ranch Steak House has been in Roseland since 1969, and Ware and her husband bought it from the previous owner in 2018. Ware, who’s lived in Roseland since 1998, said she didn’t have much interest in the restaurant initially, but she soon developed a vision for how it could become successful again.
Ware and her husband remodeled it and changed the name from Ranch Steak House to Ware Ranch Steak House. In the months the restaurant was open before it was damaged, business was sometimes tough due to street work, a fire at Gately’s Peoples Store and other problems, Ware said.
“There was really a lot against us,” Ware said. “But my husband and I were determined … to open this restaurant back up because it’s a staple in the neighborhood. People come in and tell us these different stories about their grandparents bringing them here on Sunday for breakfast or coming here for birthday celebrations.
“It’s really nice to hear those stories and that they love the food, so we just decided to bring it back.”
Since reopening, customers have asked that the restaurant also serve soul food, something the Wares are considering — but for now, they’re just happy to be open again.
“Our hearts are in this place. Our hearts are in this community,” Ware said. “We’re looking forward to seeing the community rebound. There are some things that the city has in the works on Michigan Avenue, and we’re looking forward to seeing those changes.
“We just kind of feel we’re ahead of the curve. We’re already there, and the city is going to get there.”
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