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El Greco reopening

El Greco in downtown Carbondale has a new owner is shooting for a late March reopening date. The restaurant has been closed since December. 

CARBONDALE — A gyro and beer could soon be an available combination in downtown Carbondale as a longtime restaurant on The Strip is planning to reopen.

El Greco, under the new ownership of Steve Rogers, could be open as early as March 1. He said most of the business will remain the same, except the addition of beer and wine sales and the end of delivery service.

Rogers was in the restaurant for lunch in December when he overhead former owner Ethan Jefferson talking to a customer about how the shop was closing near the end of the month. Rogers said his parents would take him to El Greco a lot when he was a child, as well as many other places on The Strip.

“This has always been one of my favorite places,” Rogers said.

After finishing his lunch, he approached Jefferson to exchange contact information. About a week later, Rogers was in the store once again and heard Jefferson said the store was closing the very next day. The two entered talks about acquiring the business, and a deal was made. Jefferson is even going to stay on for the short-term to help Rogers learn the ropes of the business.

“We are going to keep a landmark going,” Rogers said.

Rogers had previous Southern Illinois roots. He said his family moved to Carterville when he was in junior high. He was in the region throughout high school and attended SIU for a short time, but didn’t graduate.

He said he left in the late ‘80s to explore the world. He has experience in restaurant and hotel management, along with other skills. He moved back to the region to be near family, and started working in the health-care field before the El Greco opportunity surfaced. Now, his full-time focus is the restaurant.

Rogers is adamant that the restaurant will basically be the same as it has always been.

“Nothing is going to change other than some pictures on the wall,” he said.

The restaurant is in the process of applying for a liquor license to sell beer and wine — a new addition to the restaurant's offerings. Also, delivery service will be gone for a few reasons, Rogers said. One, liability and insurance costs are “through the roof,” plus the quality of product.

“By the time it gets out the door and gets to a house, it's just not as good. I would rather it be served fresh and taste the way it is supposed to taste,” he said.

Former owner Jefferson will stick around to help make the transition go smoothly for Rogers. He said closing El Greco was “probably the single hardest decision I have ever had to make.”

“When Steve came in to see that he wanted to keep going with it, I was overjoyed,” he said. “It would be a shame to see a Carbondale institution go away.”

Rogers agrees.

“There are some places in Carbondale that should not close and this is one of them,” he said. “It just keeps the flavor of the town.”


on twitter: @zd2000



Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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