Original Again

Jeffrey Bishku-Avkul

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On Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. But the weather was mild as Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Wallace Goode, 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns and a host of community figures and press members stood outside the Original Pancake House entrance and cut a red ribbon to celebrate the restaurant’s reopening.

The franchise stands at the intersection of 47th and Lake Park in Kenwood. Its previous location in the Village Center strip mall four blocks south is vacant and waiting to be demolished so that a Whole Foods supermarket and a condominium may take its place.

As the morning matured, more customers appeared and the restaurant began to teem with conversation. Franchise owner Lisa LaRoche-Sczurek walked around the place greeting people, and could be overheard telling patrons that she hopes one of her children will someday take over the business.

For LaRoche-Sczurek and her husband Paul Sczurek, their five Chicagoland Original Pancake House franchises represent a family tradition. LaRoche-Sczurek, who refers to herself as a “third generation” owner, manages an inheritance that can be traced back to her great-great-uncle Joe Zimmerman, who operated the first Chicago franchise.

LaRoche-Szurek says it wasn’t easy moving out of the Village Center location, a decades-old Hyde Park institution that she used to visit as a child. She needed to find a nearby location with available parking and the right amount of square footage.

Still, relocating afforded the Original Pancake House franchise an opportunity to design the restaurant from scratch. The new space holds 30 more seats than its predecessor and the bathrooms are larger. Expansive windows bring in lots of natural sunlight, posters showcasing Chicago’s history adorn the walls, and stained glass lamps hang from the ceiling.

The restaurant’s new spot also attracts business at an intersection with heavy traffic. Nicole, a patron who works as a graphic designer and lives nearby, explained that she is trying to make a habit of eating breakfast at the new location.

When she saw the restaurant being built, her first reaction was, “Oh wow, a pancake house here? Awesome!” She says it is “something the street definitely, definitely needs.”